Body Image - Few Women Like Their Bodies
The one thing I've learned working at White House|Black Market is that almost no woman (at least none that I've met yet) likes her body. Somewhere in life every woman compares her figure to another woman's figure and finds herself lacking. Or at some time in life, some jerk has given her a label or made fun of her in some way and that image is indelibly planted in her mind's eye for the rest of her life.
Over the weekend, I worked with a customer who was looking for a special dress for an event. She wanted a short dress. She looked good in almost every style I brought her. Yet every time she tried on a dress, she complained about her "skinny legs". Finally, after an hour of listening to her complain about her legs, I asked, "Did someone TELL you that you had skinny legs? Do you know what I would give for skinny legs?" The answer, of course, was "yes" - someone told her she had "skinny legs". Her brain translated that into "ugly legs". Throughout the session, She also complained about having a scar on her knee. I laughed and showed her my left leg which has various scars from ankle to knee from surgeries to repair sports injuries. Can you imagine two women in a store comparing scars?
Labeled as Children
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my brother-in-law told me that I was built like a football player- short and stocky. I heard, "you're short and fat." No matter what I saw in the mirror or what anyone else told me, that was the image in my mind.
To add injury to insult, I hit puberty and adolescence in a small Ohio town when the Brady Bunch was all the rage. When being attractive to boys was of supreme importance, I could not meet the blonde, blue-eyed standard set by Marsha Brady nor did I have the requisite blossoming bust that acts like a magnet to teenage boys. I had big legs and small breasts. Once again, all the messages filtered through my mind and the image created there was that I was "short, fat, ugly."
Overcoming the Mind's Eye
It wasn't until I started playing soccer (European football) that I started making some kind of peace with my body. While I was sitting on the ground, all hot & sweaty, taking off my cleats, a man approached me to invite me to play on a 7 v. 7 team. I felt like a kid on a playground that finally got picked to play ball. You know the kid
- the kid no one wants on their team. It was that invitation that made me grateful for "small breasts and big legs." Over 10 years later, I've realized that I'm built for speed, short sprints, small moves . . .
Now I can see myself as I am; not as someone else tells me I am.
One of the things I love about working in a clothing store and being a professional life coach is that I have the opportunity to work with many, many women on their body image. Some women have lost large amounts of weight and still choose clothes for a larger body because in their minds, they're still large. Some women are slender and cannot see themselves honestly. Sometimes it just take a different size or a little cheer leading to help a woman feel better about herself. Sometimes I just ask a woman to believe that I believe she can look good, and feel good in her own body.
How do you feel in your body? What does your mind's eye tell you? Did someone make fun of you as a kid?
Photo by Will Plant on Flickr.com