It’s so easy to listen to a family member or a friend or whoever else say “Oh my God, I’m so fat. My [ass, stomach, thighs, whatever] is huge.” Or, “look at me, I’ve gained xx pounds” and “now I’m size xx, instead of a size xx.” So you may be looking at that person, and thinking I’m looking at you, but I’m not seeing the problem. I’d kill to be xxx pounds, size xx, etc. The speaker’s complaints seem to lack merit. You’re not feeling for her.
Though I’ve fought it, and I’m generally empathetic, I confess to feeling that way sometimes. For example, I just read this great article on xojane by one of my favorite writers on the site, Emily McCombs. She’s talking about gaining 17 pounds, and going from a size 10 to a size 12, coming to terms with it and appreciating herself and her life at the size she’s at. I loved the article, but had a twinge of “oh, but look at little (and pretty) she is. She’s still only a size 12.” And “I lost nearly 100 pounds, and I’m still barely fitting into a size 14.”
And then I smacked myself in the head for such negative thinking. Figuratively speaking, of course. Because we all (or a good number of us, at least), have things we don’t like about ourselves or weights and sizes we feel better or worse at. And many of us are trying to come to terms with the right size for each of us, which is different for us as individuals. And each of our insecurities is equally valid, even if we are looking at a friend or family member, and thinking “but you look great. Try looking like me.”
I’ll admit to sometimes staving off jealousy, which is horrible. I think we’re most likely to feel jealous when we aren’t feeling good about ourselves and our own situations. When I’m happier, either with my body and/or my life in general, I’m less prone to envy those around me. I think sometimes when you’re feeling bad, you’re less able to connect with others, and to recognize their problems. You’re too focused on your own. But by realizing we are all in the same boat (or that we all have our own problems and issues), it puts things in perspective.
I remember a friend who was very pretty and I thought she looked perfect. Whenever we went out together, guys naturally flocked to her rather than me. I was single at the time and it made me feel like crap. But she wasn’t happy with herself. She wanted to be more toned and defined. She joined this expensive gym in NYC and bought these pricey personal training sessions. Afterwards, she didn’t look that different, but she felt a lot better about herself. I was glad about that for her, and in retrospect I could have taken her body image concerns more seriously.
Despite my thinking how lucky she was to look the way she did and have all these guys after her, in a way she wasn’t. A lot of the guys were focused on how she looked rather than who she was. And she wasn’t happy overall. She never met anyone she liked, because she didn’t give anyone a chance. She was obsessed with a guy who didn’t care about her. He’d told her so straight up, but she couldn’t let it go. I tried to be there for her, to tell her how great she was, and how another guy would appreciate her the way she deserved to be. We had the same conversation over and over, but it never sank in.
The point is, we all have our problems and it’s easy to idealize someone else’s situation. We are all built differently. Some of us are meant to be plus size and that’s ok. Others of us are going bemoan being a size 8, and wish to be size 6 or 4. The goal is to love ourselves where we are at today, even if it isn’t exactly where we want to be. And to realize that other womens’ body image issues are as real as ours. Jealousy accomplishes nothing and is a waste of time.
By working on our own body image, not only can we feel better about ourselves, but we can be more open to those struggling around us. We should lift each other up and recognize each other for the smart, vibrant and beautiful women we are. If there’s someone close to you that has been feeling negative about herself, tell her how great she is (not just great-looking, but great as a person) today. We all need to hear it sometimes.