It's not always on the surface, but it's always there somewhere. How do we feel about our hair, our faces, our thighs, our weight? Can we change our negative reactions to ourselves? Here's what some iVillagers had to say:
I've had problems with body issues all my life, and have in the last couple of months realized a few things. First of all, it is possible to get over these issues. Not by losing weight, but by doing my best to change my thinking. I've been picking up feminist magazines to read at the gym, and I've forced myself to stop counting calories. I have to fight, but I stay away from the scale. I ponied up and bought some clothes that actually fit me, regardless of size (a painful process). This discussion board is supposedly devoted to helping women get over body issues. Yet almost all of the posts are about losing weight. It's one of the hundreds of images/ideas I see that fly in the face of making ourselves happy, that fly in the face of progress. What if, maybe, we all decided not to lose weight? Does life exist after 135 pounds? Look around you: It certainly does.
I'm trying to realize that my curves are attractive. Their unique lines and symmetry make me who I am. I also like to realize that no one else has my eyes, my chin, my nose, my toes, my birdy legs!
BMI charts make me crazy, as do weight charts. I have never fit a weight chart. At 16 I was underweight for all of them. At 18 I was overweight, and that was when I weighed 150! According to those, I should have weighed 135. At that weight I have no shape at all!
One day I took a long look at my body and started finding things that were good. I began talking to myself honestly instead of finding fault in everything. When I find positive things about my body, I have a lot more self-esteem than before. It's really made a difference in the way I carry myself and even how my friends see me.
Personally I have dealt with low self-esteem since I was a little girl. I'm 18 now and have finally undergone a profound change in the way that I view myself. For so long, everything I thought about myself was distorted. At 108 pounds and five-foot-four I found myself thinking I was fat. I thought I had small breasts (at a D cup), because I did not look like Carmen Electra or any of the other women portrayed in most movies. Now I've found that I truly love every part of myself, from the faded stretch marks on my bum and breasts to the little scar on the palm of my hand. I've also realized that any comparisons I make between myself and others are a waste of time, like it is said in "Desiderata": "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself."
I realize that there are unfair standards for women, but I feel the feminist movement is fighting too hard! The rate of morbid obesity among high school girls is up, as well as their health risks. What are we teaching them by making gym class an elective? Physical fitness is not a priority anymore. Validation for the poor choices people make has become the norm. A person needs to be accountable for her decisions and not blame society!
There are separate issues here: the health issue, which involves weight management as part of good self-care; the mental health issue, which of course involves physical health, too; and the media hype issue, which complicates the first two unnecessarily. We'd all be a lot better off if we swore off TV, fashion magazines and anything else that stereotypes women and their bodies.
For more advice or to offer your thoughts, visit the: Body Image & Self Esteem message board.