This week I engaged in a conversation with a young lady about body image, specifically her body image, in which I challenged/encouraged her that the words she had heard from childhood were not true. This led to reflection upon my body image, perceptions I have held over from my childhood. It highlighted to me that the words that are said to a young girl/boy linger long into adulthood, in my case decades. What others say to us help form our thoughts about who we are, how we look, and these images may actually be not true.
Firstly I wish to emphasis that I have a reasonable healthy sense of self, I’m mostly happy with how I look and my body shape is not something I have more that fleeting thoughts about, even as a teenager it wasn’t something I agonised about but the words of two pivotal family members (both now deceased) were said and they were believed. I thought that I was a “big boned girl like my grandmother” that I “was chubby” and had “big thighs” and that I was often “putting on weight”. Whilst I didn’t allow these comments to overly bother me, nor were they a major focus of my teenage years, I heard them and they were believed. For decades I had a perception of myself that wasn’t true!
The ‘story’ I believed was, ‘I was a chubby child and teen but when I meet my husband to be and fell in love the weight fell off and I became a slim woman’, because I was told so. Over 20 years of married life with a man who loves me and my body has been wonderful for my self image, I believe what he has to say about my body. Over time I’ve given fleeting thoughts to my younger self image and had niggling doubts that I perhaps my perception wasn’t correct, particularly as none of our children have body shapes that tallied with my younger self image and surely statistically with ten children they can’t all be like their father, some must be ‘like me’? As time passed I came to believe that my bone structure changed, that I once I was ‘bigger boned’ when a child/teen and then my bone structure changed and became thinner when older. (cause well, yeah your bones can change. eye roll)
I initiated a conversation with my mother on the topic this week and she alternated between being horrified that unbeknownst to her I had held this perception of myself for all these years and the ludicrousness of my younger self image. “But you were a skinny child and a skinny teenager!” she kept exclaiming. “Why have we never discussed this?” she wanted to know.
“Because there wasn’t anything to say” I answered, “I thought it was just obvious I had big bones and fat thighs”. She is torn between being bemused and horrified that this “skinny child” thought she wasn’t.
|As a teen with my baby brother|
The words of others, whether intentional or of a throw away nature have power, a power that lingers. Today my challenge to you is to ask yourself, is the image, past or current that you have of yourself true? Comments that have had a negative effect, that were said about your: hair, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, chin, face shape, arms, shoulders, breasts, hips, waist, thighs, calf, feet etc, are they really true?!
*I wish to clarify I see beauty in all ‘shapes and sizes’, this post is more in the nature of addressing mis-perceptions of one’s image.