Many of us fierce ED fighters are enjoying the end to our coveted summer break. Hopefully during this time each of you has slept in longer, enjoyed the sunshine, gotten into that not-so-scary swimsuit, and taken some time for summer self care. One of my absolute favorite aspects of summer is that I can read unapologetically; no assignments lurking or papers begging to be written as I subscribe wholeheartedly to procrastination via literature. This summer reading has been an all inclusive experience for me ranging from beloved books read in my early teens to some light hearted Ellen Degeneres. While I am hard pressed to identify one as my favorite, one book in particular stuck with me and truly sparked inquisition. Bossypants by Tina Fey left me with aching sides I laughed so hard, arguably more so than I ever laughed during SNL. The quote that I will reference from BP is one that I am sure you have seen, or potentially heard others say. I have seen it as Facebook statuses, Tumblr reblogs, and shortened twitter hashtags.
But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.
Addressing body image through her book was a definite risk; however, she approaches this task with humor and understanding and ultimately allows for people to relate to the fact that this image is holistically impossible. Beauty is not something we must meet markers for; it is not something that begs to be earned or achieved. The very fact that beauty has become a commercialized concept proves heinous; it is a crime to think that you must meet a standard to be considered beautiful. This skewed idea of what makes a person beautiful is precisely what has lead so many of our peers down this path of a deep distrust of ourselves and our bodies. Encouraging the general population to cut a food group out, begin a strict diet, or work out for ___ more minutes is what this “ideal body image” communicates to us. This is exactly what needs to be abolished; the culture that beauty is type.
When I was going through treatment at The Emily Program we had Body Image Monday’s which earned a symphony of “ughhs” when mentioned. I share this because during one Monday in particular someone brought up the beauty of ones mind: “I am much more interested in the beauty of my brain and my heart than that of my physical self.” It would do the world a lot of good to come to this resolve; we don’t need to work for a six pack or skinny legs or a tiny waste to achieve anything but an ED. We are granted limitless minds, strong, capable bodies to carry us, and bright, unfathomable futures. This is exactly why beauty isn’t a bodily concept.
Busying yourself trying to achieve what Tina Fey describes as the “Laundry List” of attributes we must attain only leads you further from understanding and owning your own beauty. Easier said than done, as most feats are when dealing with any type of recovery. This has not been an easy concept for me to fully grasp, either. But by writing it out and thinking about the beauty I possess that cannot be evaluated in the mirror makes me feel one step closer to coming to terms with this.
My challenge for you is to think about the beauty each of you provide to the world in ways that aren’t physical. What have you said, learned, written, or lead that showcases you beauty? What do you find beautiful about your mind? What challenges are there to believing in a beauty that is disconnected from appearance? Addressing these questions and really diving into that space will make this seemingly intangible aspect of beauty come more into a tangible focus.