I’m fat. I have too much grey hair. I have boring brown eyes. My nose is too big. I have thick eyebrows. My eyelashes are too short. My chin recedes. My boobs double as toe flossers and I could carry bricks underneath them. My stomach is flabby. My belly button is like a bottomless cavern. My hips are too wide. My bum is too wide. I have thunder thighs. My knees have dimples. My feet are flat and ugly. Oh I forgot, worst of all, I have stumpy thumbs!!!!! Fuck, I think I’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole of self-deprecation that there’s no way out! And when I read back on everything I’ve just written about how I see my body, I can’t help but laugh! It is actually nothing short of hilariously ridiculous.
But on a serious note, in comparison to others, I spend a lot of my time thinking that I’m not very good-looking. And if I’m not good-looking, will people like me? If I’m not attractive, will anyone think I’m important or worthy of consideration or attention? Why are these fears a reality?
There is such a stereotypical idea of what being attractive is, and it is so superficial. How many times do we see women and men with “perfect bodies” on social media, television, billboards in the street, in movies, etc? How many times do we “average” people size ourselves up and arrive at the conclusion that we aren’t as good looking in comparison, and that somehow makes us inferior? I know I do this A LOT.
But why???? Why is it indoctrinated in me to look at my physical appearance and think that I’m not beautiful because I don’t have a body like Heidi Klum, that I have saggy boobs and stretch marks (because I bore two children), that I love good food and don’t want to deprive myself of the happiness eating brings me (in moderation of course), that my genetics make up the majority of how my body is built and I come from a long line of generations under 5’5” with big bones and thick skins?
I hate that my appearance and often all-consuming thoughts revolve around the fact that I don’t fit society’s generalised view of “attractive”. I am currently studying my Diploma of Counselling & Psychotherapy and have started learning about different strategies and techniques to support and empower someone going through challenges. One of the main microskills that comes up a lot is the concept of reframing. Reframing, by definition, is thinking about something negative or challenging in a more positive way. Sounds simple, right?
Reframing negative body image is really fucking hard. I know, I practice it A LOT. Well, I try. Sometimes I look in the mirror and feel disgusted with what I see, especially when I’m naked. I see stretch marks and scars and jiggly bits. I feel more comfortable with myself if I am fully clothed and hiding my body even from myself.
My husband of 23 years sometimes catches me looking at myself in the mirror with sadness and disgust and he reminds me that the stretch marks and scars are from having babies, that my wide hips are shapely and feminine and my boobs are saggy because I spent the better part of three years breastfeeding our babies. He reminds me that he finds all these things beautiful because of what my body allowed for him to become a dad.
His perspective really lifts me up. It reminds me of how lucky I am to have had a body strong enough to manage stress, strain, extreme and sudden weight gain and weight loss and a host of other stuff I’ve dealt with over the years.
The only problem is, I never immediately think of these positives myself unless he says something. My immediate thoughts are those of self-criticism and self-doubt. I would put money on the fact that the majority of society, especially women, do this too.
And it’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole when body image is thrust in our faces every day, everywhere and we’re taking it in both consciously and subconsciously.
While I don’t have any great words of advice for anyone struggling with body image, I can say this: be proud of who you are, appreciate your body for what it is and what it allows and don’t measure yourself against supermodels, celebrities and influencers who fit the image of “perfect” (easier said than done, I know). Best believe that they’re also dealing with insecurities and pressure to maintain their “hotness”.
And whenever you’re scrolling through Instagram or Tik Tok and find someone posing in a bikini or at the gym, looking trim, taught and terrific, quickly look up Celeste Barber’s profile. You won’t be disappointed!!