Someone asked me recently: “How can you counsel on body image, looking the way that you do?”
My reply was simple, I said: “There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to struggles with body image. It affects so many of us, in all our individuality and variety, and my feeling is: as soon as someone knows my story, my shape and size don’t matter.”
My story validates who I am and I am somebody who’s struggled with negative body image her entire life. That is what qualifies me.
Our conversation got me thinking.
I will turn 40 this year (whoa?!). I used to fear turning 40: I thought that it would mean I was old and boring; that my best years were over; that the days of being attractive and sexy were done; that there would be so many less beginnings and so many more endings.
My feelings on this subject have since changed.
As I’ve sat back and watched so many of the radiant women around me turning 40, I’ve slowly, and happily, realized that there need be nothing negative about this milestone at all. In fact, in my 40-something-year-old women friends I witness passion and confidence, peacefulness and open-heartedness. There exists in them a grounded nature and mature beauty that cannot be imitated by younger women. For some of these women, they have reached such a place of acceptance and love, that their forties could indeed be the best years of their lives.
Not without struggle.
Here’s the thing: many of these 40-something-year-old women have or still do struggle with negative body image, self-doubt, blame and guilt. Many look at themselves in the mirror every single day and hate what they see. Many still shed tears while re-telling their childhood stories; their journeys through adolescents; their current fears and shames surrounding their bodies. What comes through in them is their willingness to accept the struggle, to embrace it, to name it, and share it with those around them. There is beauty in a woman’s pain that only another woman can know. These 40-something-ladies continue to grow, express, and reach out, finding strength in one another, and in doing so, they are able to reach and guide many other women of all ages.
They are not all one size.
Nor one shape.
None of them share the same story.
My point is that we are human. We are not “one-size-fits-all” anything. Our struggles and our beauty however, all come from the same place, and that is where we find commonality: in our hearts and our souls. These 40-something-year-old-women, like women of all ages all around the world, share many of the same struggles simply because we are women and we have lived in this world together.
So before you make a quick judgment on a pretty girl; an average sized woman; an athlete; a model, remind yourself that negative body image struggles do not ever come in one size; they never have the same face, the same voice, or look the same in the mirror. Remind yourself that the females around you are tied to you and see in them what you hope they see in you.
Negative body image is a really big deal! It’s affecting women everywhere, every age, every size. We need to start talking about it. It is the first step in opening the doors to healing.