Well, that's not exactly what I've experienced.
I struggled with getting pregnant so I thought I'd take everything in stride. I promised myself that no matter what, I wouldn't complain, because I was lucky to have this experience. Of course, I still understand that...I know that...it's just hard to remember sometimes.
The worst part for me is the constant (and I mean CONSTANT) feedback I get from family, friends, and complete strangers. When I say feedback, I mean feedback on my appearance. I've been publicly assessed through every stage of my pregnancy and the public has determined that overall, I'm not up to snuff.
I know they mean well, so I smile and give one of my prepared "I know" responses. But inside? I feel defeated. I feel judged. I feel completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I feel that every minute of every day is an opportunity for someone to label my body. There are mornings when I get dressed and I look in the mirror feeling really good about myself...then I go out in public, receive the verdict on my personal appearance, and instantly get put back in my place. A place that I haven't been in a long time. I DO have to note that I have MANY loving, encouraging, and accepting individuals in my life who help pull me back up and dust off my insecurities. And, like I said earlier, I don't think the negative comments are meant to be negative. It's like a well-meaning gift wrapped in sandpaper. It stings to open it, but it's not malicious.
For the majority of my life, I've been content with my body. It was able to move easily, fit into the clothes I wanted to wear, and had a sort of "invisibility cloak" that exempted me (for the most part) from public scrutiny. Now, I have to adjust to a completely different set of life experiences and expectations for what my day is going to look like. I find myself wanting to stay inside, avoiding the awkward encounters.
Recently, I REALLY got to thinking. What would I tell a student who felt judged for his or her appearance? I'd advise them to tell people how they felt. Have I done that? No, I haven't. My instinct was to protect the jury from embarrassment or guilt by being "nice." I also felt that their judgment of my body had to be right, so it became my inner monologue. I started to worry so much about hearing those words that when they happened, it confirmed the ever-booming voice in my head: "See, there IS something wrong with you."
As a society, we appear to be moving forward. We have shed light on the digital enhancement of professional photographs. We have included plus-sized models in fashion events. We have a "new and improved" doll (right) modeled after an average-sized American 19-year-old. But...we still adjust our photos, we label women "plus-sized," and we celebrate a victory for women based on how a doll LOOKS.
Megan McCormick wrote an interesting piece about the Lammily doll, saying she didn't care what it looks like. McCormick reminds her readers that the public isn't outraged over the ripped physique of superhero figures. Why? Well, as she puts it, "when you think of Superman, you don’t think about his six pack or his rippling muscles. You think about what he can do—the lives he saves, the incredible feats he achieves, even his personality. His appearance isn’t your first priority." In other words, it shouldn't matter what Barbie looks like - we should be focusing on what she can DO.
If you haven't checked out the "That's What She Said" series from Soulpancake, here's one of the episodes. Women discuss their experiences with beauty and body image; it's amazing how universal these feelings of inadequacy are. For the most part, we have all been judged for our outward appearance, reaping the benefits of what society feels is beautiful or suffering the consequences of not measuring up to the high standards.
The poem at the end is hopeful and empowering. It allowed me to take a step back and enjoy my body for what it's providing - life.
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