Suck your stomach in.
Don’t wear that.
It makes your butt look too big.
Wear longer shorts, or everyone will see your thighs.
Bring bandaids to wear these heels, you’ll be in agony, but you’ll look slimmer and now it’s okay if your butt looks big.
Straighten your hair, it’s too messy.
Curl your hair, it’s too straight.
Please don’t get any pimples, they’re gross, and everyone will stare.
You have too much muscle for a girl, cover it up.
Wear makeup. You’re hideous without it.
Don’t wear too much makeup, though, you’ll look fake.
Cover your breasts. You’ll look slutty.
Show your breasts. It’s how you’ll attract people.
Shave every hair on your body, or nobody will like-like you.
And whatever you do, do NOT, and I mean do NOT gain weight.
Lose weight, lose it FAST, and ALWAYS, just always keep losing weight. Until your existence has shrunk so much that there’s nothing left of you.
I was six years old and in first grade, when my teacher called us to the carpet for storytime. A moment that all the kids eagerly awaited for most of the day. We would sit criss-cross-apple-sauce, mouths hanging open in awe at the words pouring from the pages on the book, excitedly raising our hands for the chance to help turn to the next page.
I wasn’t listening, though, during this particular storytime, I couldn’t hear any of the words or think about the next page. I could only look around at the other girls in my class. I was six years old, and it was one of the first times in my life when I remember comparing my body to other girls. That’s three years away from still wearing a diaper.
But there I was, believing my thighs looked the size of large tree trunks compared to everyone else (they didn’t). I thought that if I sat a different way during the story, nobody would notice how big they were, or how they spread when I sat (they weren’t big). And maybe if I sucked my stomach in, nobody would think my stomach looked huge (I wasn’t huge).
But the commercials on TV after school about new weight loss programs and slim waists, while I ate my afternoon snack, told me I needed to stop snacking and lose weight. The barbies I came home from school and played with, who’s thighs and waists were impossibly small, told me I needed to lose weight.
The mannequins at the clothing stores I’d go to, who had not an ounce of fat on them, told me I needed to lose weight. The magazines at the grocery store, whose front covers would incessantly be bragging about a new diet, try to “Lose That Stubborn Belly Fat Quick!” Or even worse would have paparazzi photos of women in their bathing suits to show how “horrible” and “fat” they look now, told me I needed to lose weight…and NEVER be seen in a bathing suit.
Lastly, seeing my mom, my role model, someone I think is most beautiful, who I love so very much, hide us from swimming pools so she wouldn’t be seen in a bathing suit, and I’d watch as she went on countless painful and expensive diets to try to lose weight, and would hear her often criticizing her own appearance– all told me that these things have made her think she needs to lose weight too. So that must mean that I DEFINITELY do. I was six, and the doctor told my mom I was a little underweight, and yet my head would never believe that when all these things (and much more) told me otherwise.
Second grade, just four years from wearing a diaper now, was when I made my first weight loss journal. Instead of playing hide-and-seek or dress-up, I was scribbling in my journal “can only eat three things a day, no snack after school, if you eat too much you will fail, and nobody will like you.” I’d keep track of my weight each day, weighing in around 44 pounds…
This unhealthy mindset would secretly eat away at my life for the next 17 years, leading to a full-blown eating disorder later on. It disordered my mental health, my social life, and my self-worth. But the most disordered thing of all is the media, and all the things young girls and grown women alike are subjected to. How their appearance supposedly equates to their worth.
I realized enough was enough when my long wavy hair fell out in clumps, I could barely speak or smile because concentration isn’t possible without energy, my skin looked pale and sickly, and I had no choice but to sleep more than be alive, etc.
[ My body was shutting down. ]
| Am I beautiful now, society? |
300-400 calories a day wasn’t giving me this happy life I thought I’d get, it was stealing every ounce of life I had left. At the beginning of 2018, I chose to end the vicious cycle. I would break the societal chains and eat now. I would snack if I wanted to, I would gain weight, I would have fat. I would face the things head-on that I was told would be some of the worst things to happen to me.
*eye roll at society*
It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. Recovery isn’t linear; some days and weeks are better than others. I still have insecurities, but way less than I did. I remind myself that losing weight not only shrunk my body but shrunk my existence as well. It’s one thing to lose weight for health reasons, but it’s another to lose weight when it’s detrimental to your life and bodily functions.
Gaining weight back and becoming healthier has reversed that. I can now exist with energy and a fire inside me to keep other women and young girls away from what thousands of other women and I go through.
There is a perpetual cycle of criticizing our appearance,
believing that the way we look, is the amount we are worth.
Young boys are predominately complimented on their actions and achievements
— “you’re so smart,” “you’re so strong,” “you’re so funny.”
While young girls are complimented predominantly on their looks
— “you LOOK so pretty,” “your hair LOOKS so nice,” “your outfit LOOKS adorable on you.”
But do you want to know the truth? The truth that I’ve found through all of this pain and struggle. The truth is, as women, our looks should be (and are) the LEAST interesting thing about us.
| WE give life. |
WE are intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally.
WE are strong.
WE are determined.
WE are funny and witty and sassy, silly, clever, brave, courageous, nurturing, and patient.
To focus solely on our looks is to take away the treasure from the treasure chest of
[ who we are. ]
Have fat on your body (it’s necessary and needed). Have cellulite (90% of women do).
Have thighs and show them off (it means you’re healthy and strong).
Have a big butt and be proud (it looks great and provides cushioning when you sit).
Have a stomach that sticks out (it’s healthy and a source of energy).
Have pimples or acne, and don’t cover it up (it’s not in your control anyway).
Have hair on your legs, armpits, belly, etc. (it’s how you were born).
Have curly hair, messy hair, or straight hair (it doesn’t mean anything about you).
Have a body that wiggles and jiggles (you’re alive and worthy).
Eat dessert and then double dessert (your soul and body will thank you).
Nourish yourselves, and remember that your looks won’t give you a satisfying life.
_Your brain, spirit, and soul will._
You’re worthy and lovable, no matter what. If the way you talk to yourself is a way, you would never DrEaM of talking to someone else, pause and speak to yourself the way you would to your dearest friend. And the next time you hear or see a fellow woman or young girl criticizing something about themselves, you have a chance to end this ugly societal cycle.
| Flip those magazines over.
| Turn off the channel on the TV when a weight loss Ad comes on.
| Tell your kids that Barbie would be frightening and wouldn’t be able to stand if she were a real human, because her proportions are legitimately impossible.
| Wear a bathing suit you’re comfortable in, and enjoy the beautifully healing experience of water and friends.
| Shop at stores representing body diversity now, with more realistic and body inclusive mannequins, like Target.
And please, please, please remind other women and girls that they are perfect how they are, and comparison is the thief of joy. Compliment their actions and skills, and tell them that their looks should be the least exciting thing about them.
My name is Claudia Goldsmith. This picture is of me at 6 years old. I am an Artist, Special Ed Educator, and nature enthusiast. I would love to help everyone whose path I come across to feel better about themselves [inside] and out. I’m working to break down the beliefs that society imposes upon women from a young age about their appearances to be deemed “beautiful and worthy.” We are so much more than that, don’t let anyone reduce you.