We ARE Good Enough: Musings on Body Acceptance

Hello Ladies,

While incredibly rewarding, the daily operations of the store have kept me increasingly busy—so much so that my pile of unread fashion magazines was growing to epic proportions and verging on becoming a fire hazard.  Over the weekend, I nursed a persistent cold by snuggling up with my dogs, a warm blanket, and my backlog of glossies for some much needed rest and relaxation.  As I perused the In Style Makeover edition, I was saddened by a piece that focused almost entirely on minimizing, narrowing, concealing, and enhancing various body parts.  Women with large busts needed to make them less so while women with smaller busts were encouraged to find ways of making them seem more ample.  Women with narrow hips were told to make them curvier while women with wider hips had to slim them down.

In that moment, I realized there is a constant emphasis on never being good enough.  There is always some imaginary ideal against which we are judged, and somehow, we keep coming up short.  Our skin is not smooth enough, our breasts are too big, are butts are too flat, our legs are too short, and our mid-sections are too soft.  Furthermore, the proliferation of digitally modified images reaffirms that nothing you do will ever make you beautiful enough or your body perfect enough.  If the most beautiful women in the world with access to expensive skin care products, personal trainers, and nutritionists still need Photoshop, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Sadly, instead of embracing positive or even neutral words and images, people commonly use emotionally-loaded, negative terminology when referring to the body, and as Sweets of Sweet Nothings said, “Words:  They mean something.”  Lately, that something seems to be negative.  Logically, I know the fashion industry, the media, and many retailers purposefully make you feel inadequate so you will purchase the latest miracle product or wardrobe must-have in the hope that maybe, just maybe, you will be a smidge closer to the ideal you never seem to attain.  On a daily basis, we are bombarded with the message:  You’re not (fill in the blank) enough, so let’s just narrow/enhance/smooth, minimize/lengthen/etc. to get as close as your body will allow.

On some level, I know that we suffer from insecurities, and fashion enables us to minimize or mask them entirely.  However, I know we also have aspects we love about our bodies that we want to learn how to play up.  Rather than encouraging women to view their body as less than ideal, why not teach them to love what they have and how to show it off the best?  We need more articles like Georgina of Fuller Figure Fuller Bust’s post on how fitted clothing maximizes her figure better than the shapeless tents fashion gurus keep throwing at her.

As a professional fitter, I’m in a unique position because I see women in a state of vulnerability.  They stand in front of a mirror with poor lighting overhead and wearing only a bra, and in the entire 15 months we have been open, I have yet to hear a woman enter the fitting room and say:  “Boy do I look gorgeous!”  Without fail, women zero in on what makes them self-conscious—mommy tummy, stretch marks, loose skin, less than toned muscles, undone hair, no makeup, etc.  It really breaks my heart.  Far too many women are unable to focus on the positive to see that what makes them special and unique is sometimes the very flaws they despise.  They can’t help but critique themselves, even going so far as to apologize for how they look, and I wonder if this continued pressure to be perfect doesn’t influence what they see in the mirror.  We’re all so busy comparing ourselves to someone else or to the “perfect” image in our mind that we lose sight of our real beauty.

I say “we” because I know I am guilty as well.  The mirror can quickly turn from an object that lets you admire your positive attributes to a hateful enemy which enables you to scrutinize every perceived flaw.  Like any bad relationship, the way we feel about ourselves in the mirror can be isolating as though the feeling of dissatisfaction is unique to us alone.  But, we’re not alone.  We all give into feelings of inadequacies, but we can set goals to improve our perspective:

1)  End Body Snark and Body Negative Language:  Part of this goal involves changing the media, but another part can be as simple as thinking twice about what comments you post on Facebook or on blogs.  Don’t repost those memes that pit different body types against each other or negatively critique women’s figures.  Making a woman feel terrible about her body should not make you feel better about yours.

I can’t count how many times this popped up in my status stream unfortunately.

2)  Encourage Body Love and Positive or Neutral Body Language:  In addition to eliminating negative language, we need to encourage the use of more positive words as well as promote discussions of body and self image that do not degenerate into a “Whose body is best” catfight.  When talking about the body, use neutral or positive language and avoid emotionally-loaded vocabulary.  For example, if you are writing a piece on dressing for a certain body part, why not include options for both minimizing and making the most of the attribute.  Regardless of whether the size of their breasts is small, medium, or large, a lot of women love them just as they are and appreciate advice on how to dress without needing to enhance or downplay their assets.

3)  End the war with the mirror:  While this will be a personal struggle for each of us, we need to stop using the mirror like a medieval torture device.  Stop searching for something you hate and focus on what you love.  The mirror should only be used for checking out how awesome we look (or whether a skirt is too short or a top too sheer or any number of practical problems) rather than for tearing us down for not living up to some perceived ideal.

4)  Compliment others:  Compliments feel emotionally uplifting to receive, and they are so easy to give.  With so much negativity existing in the world, perhaps we need to add something positive.

5)  Don’t compare yourself to other women:  I know it’s tempting.  After all, we’re told that if we do x, y, and z we could get a butt like Jessica Biel, abs like Beyonce, or skin like J. Lo, but it needs to stop.  Measuring yourself against other women will not lead you to happiness because it centers your personal fulfillment on whether you meet someone else’s standards.  Set goals for yourself and only yourself, and don’t try to live up to anyone’s standards but your own.

6)  Don’t focus so much on the physical:  With the increased emphasis on the superficial, it’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how you look or how many calories you just ate that you miss enjoying life.  Moreover, fixating on the negative because you don’t look a certain way can overshadow some pretty amazing non-physical attributes, like intelligence, humor, kindness, loyalty, and courage.  If you’re having a fat day or feel bad about your body, take a few moments to remember that our bodies aren’t the sum total of our being.  We are so much more than what’s on the exterior.

I don’t have any delusions that the media may never embrace a positive way of thinking about women’s bodies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work a little bit each day to feel better about ourselves and to help other women along their own journey toward body acceptance.  It’s time to look in the mirror and proudly proclaim:  I am good enough.

Erica

We ARE Good Enough: Musings on Body Acceptance
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.

29 thoughts on “We ARE Good Enough: Musings on Body Acceptance

  • October 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm
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    Such a beautiful post, Erica, and some very great tips for overcoming the negative pressures we have out there.

    <3

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  • October 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm
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    This is a wonderful post! I love it.

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  • October 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm
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    great text 🙂
    bodylove and body positivity ftw!

    though personally I hate the kat dennings pic/”quote”.
    anorexia is a serious illness, it’s not sth you can “try”. I cringe everytime I see this pic.

    Oh, I found a great pic on the mirror in the bathroom of a restaurant in my town some weeks ago – it’s perfect:
    it reads: “I am beautiful” http://sphotos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/420052_251548038299257_588957111_n.jpg

    xoxo Denocte

    Reply
    • Erica
      October 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm
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      So glad I found your comment, Denocte! I hadn’t thought of the Cat Dennings picture that way, and I would take it down but your comment would seem out-of-context. So, hopefully, people glance through and see it as a different take on the meme.

      Also, what a great inscription on the mirror! Thanks for posting it! 🙂

      Reply
      • October 24, 2012 at 12:35 am
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        No, don’t take it down 🙂
        I just wanted to mention it.

        🙂

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    • Erica
      October 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm
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      Glad you enjoyed it Dando La Talla! 🙂

      Reply
  • October 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm
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    Erica, this is wonderful. I always enjoy reading your fashion and clothing reports, because you seem to take such joy in clothes for themselves, and not as a means to a “perfect” end or as “solutions” or “minimizers.” We ARE good enough RIGHT NOW to dress how we want and to feel good about ourselves, and other people are too. I hate the memes that pit one “type” of woman against another– there truly is beauty everywhere, most importantly in our words and our minds and our hearts. Thank you for this!

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    • Erica
      October 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm
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      Thank you, Sweets! Your comments about how words have value and significance really hit home with me as I was reading the magazines, and I realized just how negative they can be. I LOVE fashion and clothes (especially lingerie and shoes), but I like them because they let me express who I want to be that day. Some of them can border on art, but I don’t like to feel as though I NEED to use clothes to look better or meet some idealistic standard which none of us seems to meet. There’s been a strong emphasis on changing the words we use, and hopefully, we can carry that positive change to other arenas too. 🙂

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  • October 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm
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    Dear Erica,

    Thank you for writing this wonderful post. No matter someone’s size, we do all deal with these pressures and it’s so important to help and motivate one another. Often find that it seems easier for a lot of people to talk negative rather than positive. We’ve taken the high road and created a shopping experience where women can shop by their body shape and find the perfect piece to make them feel good about who they are without having to become someone their not. We need to celebrate our curves whatever shape or form and yes, remember that we are good enough!

    Thank you again for such an inspiring post. 🙂 xoxo

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    • Erica
      October 24, 2012 at 11:44 am
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      I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I’m also happy to hear you are a retailer that cares about preserving women’s self-esteem during the shopping experience. I love your policy of letting women “feel good about who they are without having to become someone their not.” Beautiful sentiment! xx

      Reply
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  • October 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm
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    This is a beautiful post, thank you for writing it. It really hits home for me. I used to feel so much body negativity because I’d constantly compare myself to others. I grew up as the really skinny kid with pale hair, freckles and red hair, and it became the source of a lot of teasing. It led me to believe those aspects of my appearance were problematic because they made me look different. Once I stopped comparing myself to others, those things that made me look different became the things I love about myself, and not because I think they’re the most beautiful features ever, but because they make me look like myself. It’s so liberating to realize it just doesn’t matter how different you look, and if we all work towards body acceptance, then more people can realize how interesting we all are and feel happier.

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    • Erica
      October 24, 2012 at 11:39 am
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      Windie, I know how freckles and pale skin can be easy targets for teasing, but I’m glad you have embraced them as the wonderful features they are! One of my personal pet peeves with beauty standards is the emphasis on tanning or use self-tanner if your skin is pale. I love my pale legs, and I don’t care if it’s the middle of summer, I’ll show them off as is, thank you! I’m in total agreement that the more we work toward body acceptance for ourselves and for women as a whole, the happier we’ll all be. And think of the diversity of beauty that can be promoted whether it’s size, shape, skin color, etc! We’re all so unique and special that it seems like a crime to homogenize women into one feminine ideal.

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  • October 23, 2012 at 9:19 pm
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    Erica-This is a fantastic post that I think everyone should read. I can really appreciate what you wrote, and you are right. I am glad you shed light on how the media gives us a fathomless hunger for the ultimate *perfect body* while making anything less look worthless. I am a firm believer that most of the media markets off the misery of being a woman, rather than the joy or happiness. I am very glad you wrote about this!

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    • Erica
      October 24, 2012 at 11:34 am
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      That’s an excellent point, Stacy, that the media does focus less on all the wonderful things about being a woman and instead chastises us for not living up to a set of physical appearance standards. Glad you liked it!

      Reply
  • October 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm
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    Thank you, Erica.
    I’ve had a long disagreement with my mother who thinks I don’t look like her ideal daughter. It’s difficult to cast off the criticism of somebody I love and respect so much.
    I really appreciate your practical tips- to embrace body and self-positivity, a plan is a great way to make it more immediate and more achievable.

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    • Erica
      October 24, 2012 at 11:33 am
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      Faustine, that sounds incredibly difficult, but I’m glad you are working towards a body positive image for yourself. Sometimes the people we love can engage in body shaming with us, and I know that is some of the toughest influence to repel. *big hugs*

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  • October 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm
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    Erica,
    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for all the insights and suggestions on how to improve our relationship with media images and the mirror.

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    • Erica
      October 24, 2012 at 11:31 am
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      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Tammy! I think the mirror is one of my toughest personal battles, but I also can easily get into a comparison phase when I should be focusing on my positive attributes rather than pitting myself against other women.

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  • October 26, 2012 at 1:52 am
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    This article literally made me cry (not easily done). I struggled with negative body issues from my mid-teens to my 30’s, all that suddenly came flooding back and reminded me what a horrible headspace I was in.

    I could not look in the mirror and say there was one thing I liked. I constantly compared myself to others and always came up short. Everything I saw or read in the media seemed to suggest there was something wrong with me. I hated everything about my appearance.

    It took a long time but I ditched the women’s magazines, stopped the comparisons and stopped focusing on the flaws. Now at 42, I actually like what I see in the mirror 🙂 C’mon girls give yourself a break, you’re perfect just as you are!

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    • Erica
      October 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm
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      “I ditched the women’s magazines.” Isn’t it funny that the so-called “women’s magazines” are often the worst culprits for making women feel bad about themselves. Instead of empowering us and embracing us for who we are, they’re often the driving force behind insisting we need to change and be “better.” I’m sorry the article brought you back to that time in your life, but I am so happy for you that you overcame those demons and can look in the mirror confidently. It’s not an overnight process, but if we each take it one day a time, we’ll start to improve how we see ourselves. *hugs*

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      • October 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm
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        It’s totally ok that this reminded me of how things used to be, because it also made me realise how far I have come and that is a really good feeling.

        Reply
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