UNPOPULAR OPINION: Please Shut Up About Your Body Issues
The likelihood that everyone reading this has seen Mean Girls is very high because most of you are awesome and that movie is awesome. Just in case you haven’t though, let me describe a very important scene for you. The titular characters (the mean girls) are hanging out and looking at themselves in the mirror. Karen says her hips are huge and then the other girls join her all taking turns shitting on their bodies. Here it is for posterity:
That short scene says SO MUCH about the way women are expected to relate to one another in terms of our bodies and you know what? I hate that shit.
I honestly can’t even remember the last time one of my friends had something good to say about the way she looks! I pride myself on having a pretty fly group of friends (because I’m very shallow), but if you actually believed what we have to say about ourselves, we’re apparently all ill-proportioned, acne ridden, bloated, sallow haired, wide shouldered freaks.
While maybe not as systematically enforced by society, this behavior definitely applies to men too. I have heard some of the most vitriolic shit come out of my dude-friends mouths about their own bodies.
I’m totally guilty of it too. I look in the mirror and instantly the running dialogue of my flaws starts playing. It’s been this way as long as I can remember but after way too long of putting up with it, I’m trying to stop. I used to think that if I just got really skinny, I would somehow magically like myself and stop hating what I saw when I looked in the mirror, but I’ve rapidly come to realize that this is a fantasy. So now, instead of just focusing on changing my body, I (with the help of my awesome therapist) am actively working to change the way I think about my body.
For me, a huge part of mental health is based on the very scientific “fake it ‘til you make it” principle. So I believe the less I give voice to whatever terrible thought I’m having about myself, the less I will believe said terrible though.
I’ve been practicing this idea for a couple months now and guys, I think it’s starting to work. I still think shitty things about myself from time to time but now I can at least see a pretty girl on the street and just appreciate that she’s pretty and not immediately wish I were her instead of me (sometimes).
So here’s what I propose, next time you’re hanging with your friends and you feel the urge to spew some mean and probably not true garbage about your appearance, just don’t. This applies to writing mean comments about yourself on Instagram, Facebook or any other social media thingie. If you can’t do it for yourself then at least do it for the people around you.
Think about it, what’s the first thing you do when one of your friends says something bad about him/herself? You immediately take that thought and turn it back on yourself. This is not only lame but also encourages comparing yourself to your friends, which is never good.
After you’re done contemplating whether or not you should also be worried about your pore size, then your next move is probably to try and make your friend feel better. How are you gonna do that? Well, most likely by offering up some physical flaw of your own. Then before you know it you’re engaged in a “who can hate him/herself more” contest with your friend. I’m telling you, nothing good is gonna come of it.
I’m not saying don’t have the thoughts. This isn’t 1984 and what goes on inside your mind is none of my damn business. I just think we should all stop treating this garbage like it’s normal and fine.
The effect negative self-talk has on us over time is so obviously corrosive that I think it should be treated as any other wildly unhealthy habit. We take great pains to hide so many self-destructive behaviors (eating disorders, drug addictions, self injury, etc) but this one is not only accepted but often encouraged by our peers.
“Aren’t you just encouraging repressed feelings," you ask? And “what about the freedom to express myself free from judgment,” you say?
Well, I say eff all that noise. After all, I don’t believe those nasty things you have to say about yourself and you don’t believe the bad things I have to say about me. So instead of wasting our time talking about shit that’s not true, let’s talk about something that matters (like Chris Hemsworth’s arms).
Because at the end of the day, (everybody say it with me now) ain’t nobody got time for that.