“You’re Too Skinny!” The Other Side of the Body Image Struggle
Living in Los Angeles has been an interesting experience. Stationary traffic and smog aside, it’s hard not to miss the heavy focus the LA culture has on health: protein shakes, gluten-free menus, sushi, yoga, juice cleanses, etc. It’s a city with “body image” as its core, and it’s one that can be quite overwhelming for newcomers.
Coming from Florida, you’d think I’d already have a grasp of societal pressures on body image; after all, Miami is all about the bikini body. Yet it wasn’t until I moved to the west coast that I really started to see how much looking your best was important… at least by LA standards, and how living here has affected me: I glance at storefront windows, looking past the merchandise to stare at my own reflection; I question everything I eat, even when it’s seemingly healthy; and I’m constantly wondering how others perceive me (my conclusion is usually negative).
Despite all this, I comfort myself in knowing that although I may be highly critical of myself, if I work hard I can be as happy as those women who are thin, healthy, beautiful, and thus comfortable with themselves. Right?
I know quite a few gorgeous women, stunning really, who are extremely uncomfortable in their skin—and it frustrates me. How can someone look so good and still somehow be sad with their own reflection? How are there fit women out there who criticize themselves more than I do?! It’s possible, it’s happening, and it’s truly depressing.
There’s someone I’ll refer to as “Angie,” who’s tall and thin with curves in the right places, giving her a beautiful and unique frame. To say she has the body of a model is extremely accurate, because she is one. I envied her; she could wear a simple t-shirt and look amazing while I’m standing next to her looking frumpy and dull. And yet despite having a profession where she’s idolized for her looks, and reminded of how captivating she is every day, she still sees flaws. Flaws that are not actually there, but nevertheless traits she feels she needs to fix to be desirable.
Then we have “Danielle,” who despite having one of the smallest figures I’ve ever seen, still thinks she’s fat. In fact, she’s lost more weight since I last saw her. Yet with every compliment she receives, she negates it with a, “Oh no, I’m just sucking it in.” Although that’s humanly impossible, she tells herself this so she doesn’t accept her lovely body for how it is.
Finally, there’s my friend “Aisha” who is not only tiny, she’s extremely fashionable and always so well put together. Often I find myself dressing up a bit for our outings just to try to match up. Although she’s a gorgeous person, she too hates the way she looks. She doesn’t like being petite. One day she confessed she was trying to gain weight, just to stop her friends from commenting on her size, “I’m tired of my friends always pointing out how skinny I am. How it looks like I don’t eat, when I eat a lot. How everyone’s concerned with my looks.”
This threw for a loop. I can verify she does eat a lot, while still retaining her figure thanks to metabolism/genes/something I don’t have. But the key here is that she IS healthy; she’s not starving herself. But thanks to criticisms and even compliments about her size, she’s become extremely self-conscious about her own weight. She has a frame most women in Los Angeles would die for, but something she would do anything to change.
… I’m just stunned. It’s heartbreaking to see women I find stunning not comfortable with themselves either. That there’s another side to the body image struggle I rarely take into account. Those of us who feel we need to lose weight to achieve that model look aren’t the only ones in pain; the models themselves are struggling to find a happy balance with themselves.
I think it’s important to remember that we’re all under the same image pressures, and that it isn’t good for us. It’s time we feel comfortable for our own sake—health should be our goal, not what dress size we are. We have to stop caring what we think society perceives us to look like, and love how we are. Easier said than done, and it’s simpler to write the words than embody the message, but I’m so tired of it all. And I’m tired of being tired.