• Pat Birnie

Mirror Mirror on the Wall......

Women and body image - whoa! what a weighted topic. I recently read a blog on body image, the word 'flattering' (did you know that really means slimming?) and how women see themselves. What floored me was the number of comments on that blog! Boy did it strike a nerve. As well, it really got me thinking. Have we made progress on this or are women still afraid to take up too much space?


First some memories: When I was a kid, my beautiful older sister was the tallest daughter in our family at 5'7". I recall our mom always telling her to stand up straight. No doubt she didn't love her height and tried to make herself smaller by slouching. I also wanted to be teeny -- like 5 ft not 5'5" -- why? Really....why?! My mother was a strong robust women right up to her death at 88; she talked about being embarrassed by her muscular arms when she was a young women. I guess women aren't supposed to be strong? Final story - about 20 years I was sitting by a pool with 2 other moms in their 40's. We got on to the topic of bathing suit shopping, often described as the 'worst' experience we can endure. We all thought the other two looked fantastic but were unhappy with our own bodies. One said her rear end was too big, the other hated her large breasts, I envied their flat stomachs (as a mom of 4, a flabby stomach is kind of inevitable isn't it?). It struck me as so ridiculous that not one of us were happy with our strong healthy bodies! Do any of these stories resonate with you?


What do you see when you look in the mirror? I regularly express gratitude for the fact that at age 67, I am able to run, walk, hike, do pushups, walk the golf course and play pickle ball (no, it's not just for old people!) . I can chase my grandchildren all day long. I am so deeply grateful. That said, when I do a downward dog I'm horrified by the wrinkles on my legs, and need to remind myself that those legs have served me well for decades and that those wrinkles don't slow me down. I'm ashamed to say the when I look in the mirror sometimes all I see are the wrinkles around my mouth. Why oh why is that what stands out to me?


What is ridiculous is that standards of "beauty" have changed over the decades and are completely arbitrary and dictated by media. This link provides some food for though. Exploring this topic brought up some very interesting and disturbing facts, such as this: "In the United States, girls and women hear and see messages about how they look from the first moments they are alive, throughout much of their childhood, and into adulthood. Young girls and teens are more likely to be praised for how they look than for their thoughts or actions. The media focuses on showing women who are thin, attractive, and young. Images of these women are often edited using computer technology. As a result, girls and young women often try to reach beauty and body ideals that do not exist in the real world". If you'd to read more on this topic check out this thought provoking link.


So....what to do? Not just for us, but also for future generations. One thing I work at is complimenting our grandchildren and teens on all aspects of what makes them amazing - their kindness, their sense of humour, their sensitive and caring personality. Our job is to work at offsetting the messages they are getting from the media and help them stop comparing themselves to these unattainable (almost mythical) figures!

There may have been progress, but no doubt we have a long way to go. Eating disorders are still common, social media gives us a totally distorted fantasy of what a normal body should look like, and for the most part, the successful women in entertainment are too thin and (sometimes weirdly) wrinkle free. This same article provides tips on how we can change our reactions and promote body positivity on social. Two of the funniest, smartest and most successful women (and my favorites) are Amy Schumer and Mindy Kaling. Both represent normal sized women and it breaks my heart to read that they they have struggled and been body shamed their entire lives. It's interesting, as Kaling states in this interview that you need to be either rail-thin or extremely large and slapstick comic relief -- what about the normal sized 12 or 14 women that make up most of our society?


To be honest I'm not sure what the solution is. It was interesting and informative to research and write this blog. We definitely have a long way to go and I personally am very tired of the unattainable stereotype that's being jammed down our throats. I'd love to hear your feelings and comments on this topic. We need to keep progressing for our children and grandchildren!


with love and compassion, Pat

905-330-5266

patbirnie55@gmail.com






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