Thursday, January 19, 2012

Self-esteem is for everyone.

I have been debating for a while—a long, long while—about whether or not to write this post, but finally, I just saw one “thin people are disgusting” Facebook meme (or whatever you’d like to call it) too many, and I can't hold it in anymore, so here we go.

I feel like this shouldn’t need to be said, but apparently, it does. Problems with body image and low self-esteem can happen at any body size. To anyone. You might hate your own figure and envy someone else’s, but they might hate theirs and envy yours.

Yeah this image makes me ragey.
That image to the left there? It’s my least favorite that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen it at least four times on Facebook in the last couple months. Giving the benefit of the doubt to whoever created this, and to all the people who are passing it along, I assume the message here is supposed to be that you should be happy with who you are and not try to diet yourself into an unobtainable version of perfection only truly achievable with lots of photoshop, and that’s a great message. But it’s not the message that I’m receiving, sitting here on my tiny little butt and looking at this.

What it does is remind me of the voice that used to whisper to me when I was younger: Your arms are creepy. Your knees stick out. People probably think you have an eating disorder. In fact, I was pretty obsessed, as a teen, with making sure no one thought I had an eating disorder. In retrospect, I doubt anyone paid my eating habits much mind. But they were always saying things. “You’re such a stick!” “Girl, you need to eat more.” “What are you, like 50 pounds?”

These things get to a person. I can’t and won’t pretend I know what it’s like to be a bigger person, because I’ve always been thin. And I also know that my experience is not the experience of all thin people. No one person’s experience is ever universal.

But man, rational or not, the weight stuff just got to me. My self-esteem was, like most girls, rocky in high school. Fortunately, the internet was a little newer back then, and no internet drawings were telling me that skinny girls are disgusting. (To be clear, I also don't approve of these sorts of drawings about heavier girls, but those seem not to venture to Facebook, as far as I've seen.) But now?

It’s just…it’s not okay. It’s not.

It’s not okay to tell someone they are gross because of their size. It’s not okay to say it straight out. It’s not okay to say it with passive aggressive internet memes. It’s not okay to tweet about the “skinny bitches” at your gym (I have actually unfollowed people before on twitter for saying stuff like that too often. I mean, everyone understands, right, that thin doesn't automatically=healthy? Good diet and a healthy exercise regimen are important for health no matter what you weigh). It's not okay to build up one group of people's feelings of self-worth by putting down another group of people. I know that this post is really thin-hate focused, but it applies to everyone. It’s not okay no matter who you're talking about. Words have an impact. This kind of thing might bounce right off one person, but it might lodge in the next person like a fiberglass sliver.

So I’m writing this post, because I tend to be a fiberglass sliver person. And I’d like to see women building each other up, not tearing each other down (because let's face it, ladies, we're the ones doing this to each other). I know it’s completely unrealistic to wish that women could all be each other’s loving healthy body image support systems, but I guess I hope that at least this post provides some food for thought. I am so for promoting healthy body image, but never, ever at the expense of others. Just something I hope everyone can think about a little bit.


Amy Lukavics said...

I love you so much for writing this post, Kaits. And that meme is so fucking annoying and stupid.

Kate Hart said...

<3 <3 <3

Kristin Halbrook said...

I'm so sick and tired of the "men prefer" or "fat is better" or "curves are natural, sticks belong in the woods" or whatever garbage is spouted by those who can't seem to grasp that the ideal is HEALTHY, whatever that means for your body shape. While the photoshopping and eating disorders are a problem that I'm also sick of (thanks, you horrid "beauty" manufacturers), the way women compete nastily against each other (what, to justify their life choices? their imperfections? we've all got them) is abhorrent.

You are beautiful. Thanks for the post. <3

Sarah Enni said...

I had never seen that Betty Boop thing before, and it's so, so unnecessarily negative. I really appreciate this post as a reminder that everyone has their issues, people shouldn't make broad, unfounded assumptions or assertions about people based on weight or anything else, and that images like that just take the focus off of the real issue---making sure people are just healthy.

Excellent post. <3

Corrine Jackson said...

Good post, Kaitlin! On the flip side, as an overweight girl, I feel bombarded EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY about how my weight isn't good enough. The media, the print ads, the internet, TV shows, friends, family...the list goes on. I'm very aware of my weight every single day as I dress, hoping I can somehow dress to hide it. I've been called fat by a total stranger. I get being enraged by memes - I really do. But I also admit that I felt this odd bit of encouragement when I saw the latest one because I'm tired of being torn down - and I am my worst critic. Having read your post, I also see how it looks from your side too. The honest truth is that I have to dig for empathy because from where I sit, you're on the side I want to be on. I want to be thin. Society tells me you are what I should want. That's how bad things have gotten, and how I've been conditioned to think. But I also know this is wrong and it's something I'm working on - putting my focus on getting healthier as opposed to focusing solely on weight loss. And I've been so encouraged by our Change Write Now challenge. Women of all sizes and shapes have been supporting each other to become healthy in various aspects and that has blown me away. Thanks for posting this!

Kara said...

Great post, Kaitlin! I was always an average girl (not overweight, but I had a bit of a butt and wider hips) until I started losing weight like crazy after my Chron's disease got out of control. I'm thinner than I've ever been right now, and I just wish people would understand that not all thin girls have eating disorders. There are health reasons that make people underweight, just as there are health reasons for being overweight.

Kaitlin Ward said...

Cory--I appreciate your comment and I think that it hits on the core of the problem: we ALL feel torn down. None of us looks like those magazine ads, not a single one of us. Not even the people IN the magazine ads. Society may show that we should be thin, but we also shouldn't have stretch marks or blemishes, or cellulite, and it's completely unattainable. (I have all those things!)
And I'm really glad that Change Write Now is inspiring you; it's a wonderful idea and I'm glad you're doing it!

And thanks, everyone, for commenting! I appreciate it.

Chanelle said...

Such a great post.

Rachael Allen said...

Kaitlyn, thank you so much for this post! I definitely shared some of those feelings growing up. And feeling like there was a Team Skinny and a Team Curvy, and like the curvy girls could say anything they wanted about the skinny girls' bodies without it being considered mean. I completely agree that we should be more concerned with our individual health than judging each other!

Krista Ashe said...

I know you and I have discussed this on FB before, and I posted/shared an image of the emaciated girls verses the models of the 50's just last night. Two of the five girls in that pic had once been "heavier" and had lost weight bc of the pressures of society(Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Richie).

I have to say Cory said it so well. Until there are television shows dedicated to people gaining weight, until models are forced to weigh a healthy weight, until there are countless advertisements about how being healthy, not thin happen rather than lose weight, lose weight, lose weight, it's going to be very hard for me to empathsize, like Cory said.

And it's hard for me not to judge bc I've been judged all my life. Been told, "Oh, you know, you're so pretty, but you'd be so much prettier if you'd just lose some weight", had to learn that certain guys weren't interesed in me bc I was heavier, etc. I really dont think skinny people experience that level of prejudice or the immense pressure that overweight people do.

But it's an interesting post.

Kaitlin Ward said...

I will say that being thin does not take off societal pressure, and it doesn't excuse you from prejudice. It might be a different kind, but it's still there. I'm not actually looking for empathy with this post. Not for myself, anyway. What I want is for people to realize that you might think someone's feelings aren't being affected when, in reality, you (the general you) might be hurting someone in a very real and deep way. I think we all need to be aware, and we all need to stop tearing each other down. imo, it's the wrong way to go.

Debra Driza said...

What a great post, Kaitlin! I think it's so important that you shared a different perspective, and one I don't consider enough.

I think a lot of women think they're being complimentary when they're saying things like "oh, wow, you're such a stick"---but if you look harder, then yes, it seems pretty passive aggressive. "You look great" or "you look fit" is a compliment--not "you look like a brittle tree branch." IMO, making yourself feel better by taking pot shots at someone else is never a healthy way to boost your own self-esteem.

I love that you brought this to my attention--I have several very thin friends and I'd hate to think I was making them feel bad with any thoughtless comments. <3

Erin Brambilla said...

Thanks for this post, Kaitlin! I have never seen that Betty Boop picture before and it's terrible on so many levels.

I think what it boils down to is that everyone, regardless of size, deserves respect and to have their feelings acknowledged. No matter if you're thin, not thin, or somewhere in between. Our personal value shouldn't be determined by that measure.

Sometimes we just have to take a moment and think about what we're really saying.

Corrine Jackson said...

I just wanted to come back and clarify my comments. I only meant to point out that overweight women are lambasted far more frequently than thin women. Thin is much more the societal standard we are all measured against. Degrading women, regardless of their weight, sucks. When I shared my feelings, I knew those feelings were not pretty, but I also knew Kaitlin would respect my honesty for the sake of discussion and because she's my friend. Which she did because Kaitlin is awesome. Body image is something I'm tackling daily, like a lot of other women. My feelings about it are complex, and I appreciate Kaitlin posting this so we could discuss it.

Kaitlin Ward said...

Thanks, Cory, and I definitely very much appreciated your comments! And thanks, all of you, for reading the post :)

Krista Ashe said...

And like Cory, I hope my comments didn't seem like, "Well, you shouldn't do this post b/c it's harder for overweight people!" That's not what I intended at all, although sometimes things can come off differently on the internet. The pictures I posted were more about "healthy" images...none of the women I would consider heavy in the pic of the 50's.

We launched into a pretty good discussion on Facebook the last time with several people about the images and all.

It is something to think about. It's something I deal with personally on a day to day basis and then also with the young ladies I teach. MOre often than not I deal with girls who think they're fat when they're not...very rarely do I hear kids teased about being thin. However, I know lots of young guys hate being thin and start on protein shakes way too young so that they can bulk up. So there's pressure there too.

Helan said...

I thought I would grow out my phase of criticizing myself and the way I look. I am 30 years old and I am still struggling to find the beauty and confidence in myself, so I am find the steps provided on to be extremely helpful in guiding me to see myself in a positive light. I definitely recommend any girl or woman struggling with self esteem to take a look and I hope it helps you too!