Thank you for joining me on this journey toward loving your reflection. Check out the rest of this body image series here.
For all the praise I received for my looks as a little girl, I heard and internalized at least as many friends’ opinions as a tween and teen. Again, the ideas of others changed my perception of myself.
It’s true. Friends Impact Body Image.
I remember overhearing painful comments I made about my developing chest, my expanding thighs. I remember overhearing comments made about other people’s bodies, clothes, make-up, hair. Opinions being passed about how they looked, how they should look, what they were “supposed to” look like. Perceptions shared about what was too big, too small, too pale, too dark, too frizzy, too flat, and on and on it goes.
In her book, Bossypants, Tina Fey nails it.
When I was thirteen I spent a weekend at the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey, with my teenage cousins Janet and Lori. In the space of thirty-siz hours, they taught me everything I know about woman hood… One afternoon a girl walked by in a bikini and my cousin Janet scoffed, “Look at the hips on her.” I panicked. What about the hips? Were they too big? Too small? What were my hips? I didn’t know hips could be a problem. I thought there was just fat or skinny. This was how I found out that there are an infinite number of things that can be “incorrect” on a woman’s body.”
Somewhere along the line, my peers learned that it was acceptable to make comments and pass judgement about how people look. Whether or not those comments were directed at me, I overheard them, and I had no truth to combat them. I had no tools or skills to deflect the self-consciousness they produced.
With every comment or opinion my friends uttered, my definition of the ideal body began to take shape. Every body part, every feature, every single inch. An ideal size, shape, height, weight. The arch of the brow, the shade of the skin. The fullness of the chest, the flatness of the stomach. And on and on it goes.
Too much this. Not enough that.
Conversations became intelligence gathering missions where I would piece together all the ways to feel insufficient and all the ways I needed to alter my appearance to relieve myself of this feeling.
Too much this. Not enough that. Unacceptable. Incorrect.
Fueled by my embarrassment and self-consciousness, the list morphed from all the ways I was woefully imperfect to all the ways I must immediately improve. A forever to-do list. A forever set of goals.
CHALLENGE: What do you remember about the comments and reactions of your friends and peers in your tween & teen years? What features were deemed ideal and what were considered tragic and unwanted? Did this make you feel good about yourself based on your similarity to the ideal? Or self-conscious and ashamed based on your dissimilarity to it?