Do you dread getting dressed in the morning because you just don't know what to wear? You hate every outfit you own and it's beginning to affect your mood and how you feel about yourself. It happens to all of us, no matter what size we are. The pressure from society to have a thin, svelte body is unavoidable—and let's be real, most of us do not look like our favorite celebs. (In fact, most celebs don't look like their own magazine covers either since the invention of Photoshop.) But here's the thing, we don't have to.
Body image expert Jessica Weiner delves into why women use "the language of fat" and how it affects their body image and self esteem in her book Do I Look Fat in This?. Find out how to improve your relationship with your body and feel comfortable in your own skin and live by her motto, "Life doesn't start five pounds from now."
It's Time to Come Out of the Closet
Something vaguely resembling a Greek tragedy takes place every time I go into my closet to get dressed. I wish I could say I'm being melodramatic, but I'm not. "What should I wear today?" Five simple words, for some. For me it's a moral dilemma, and the consequences can have epic proportions.
Haunted by the memories of past fashion disasters, I take small, careful steps into enemy territory and open my closet door. I know the terrain. I have studied it for years. I have the same strategy, the same plan. Get in and get out. As fast as I can. Don't look at myself naked in the mirror. Don't stop to ponder, poke, or pick. Just dodge in, grab something resembling an outfit, and get out as quickly as possible.
When it's over, I stop to survey the spoils of my war. Oh, no. I'm not happy with my outfit. I must venture in again, go behind enemy lines, and wage another attack.
This time I emerge victorious. I have found an outfit that will surely cover, hide and protect my assets when, lo and behold, I discover a lone stain undetected by the dry cleaners, or a snug-fitting waistline that I could have sworn fit fine a few days ago. Or I'm faced with an outdated, trying-too-hard, doesn't-really-fit-my-body shirt that I bought because it was on sale.
As I stand wrapped in the cloak of my valiant battle, I am ashamed, angry, embarrassed, and hopeless. I experience such a swelling of emotion that I find I must bellow at the world around me, at the injustice in my life, a scream so loud and so soul-shaking that it most definitely wakes up the neighbors: "Why, oh why, am I so gross that I have nothing to wear?"
No matter that the two phrases making up this sentence don't really connect.
"I feel gross" signals an immersion in the Language of Fat, really covering up some deeply rooted body-loathing and an inability to express other emotions, such as anxiety, joy, trepidation, and so on. "I have nothing to wear" signals that I am at the end of my stylish rope with nontrendy clothing that may or may not actually fit my current body size. Apart, these phrases only pack a small punch. But put them together and you have a supersize version of self-loathing.
Understanding the Closet Meltdown
All logic goes out the window when you're staring straight ahead at the insides of your closet. Thousands of dollars worth of shiny, soft, smooth material we call clothing - and still we are certain we have nothing to wear. And that we are gross. And fat. And undesirable. And ugly. What is it that brings us to the brink of emotional and spiritual despair when we open up our closet doors? What moves us to swear on our grandmother's grave that we will get back into our skinny jeans before the summer is over?
Though the journey has been long, I refuse to any longer be a woman who mangles her body to fit into clothes. What happened to the sweet notion of finding clothes that just fit your body? Whose militaristic idea was it to have you mentally manipulated around a small piece of fabric, a label carrying a number, haphazardly sewn into the back of your pants?
As if chronic dieting didn't have us already withdrawn from our potential and power, our society's drive to buy and consume clothing that will make us look like the "perfect woman" send us into an ego-crushing downward spiral and an agony-filled existence. It replaces bigger topics—like, for instance, world events or social issues. Instead, across the country each morning, women are often more concerned with which jeans make our butts look small.
Sometimes I think it's a conspiracy of sorts. Or some kind of mind control. How else can you explain the behavior at the half yearly sale at your favorite department store? Barbarian aggression is on full display when women groan, gruff, and sometimes jab elbows at each other, hoping to find that marked-down item that we wouldn't normally pay more than ten bucks for, but since it's in a bind identified with a big red sign that says SALE, we will pay whatever it costs and declare it a steal!
Who are you when you give up all hope and faith in the world because you can't find a cute pair of shoes to match your outfit? Where do you go when you launch missiles at your fragile bits of self-worth while standing in front of a dressing room mirror in a bathing suit?
Make no mistake, there is a tragedy playing out. And you are at war with an enemy so imbedded in our consumer culture that you are sometimes oblivious to the battle. This war is waged at home, each and every morning, each and every time you go to open that closet door and get dressed.
Are you with me?