, Social ConstructBody Image: Feeling Like You’re Never Enough

Body Image: Feeling Like You’re Never Enough

Let’s start here:

Sociologist Beth Eck did a series of interviews attempting to tap into what it felt like for men and women to look at male and female nudes.  Her findings were pretty fascinating.

First, she asked men and women to look at naked images of women, including this one of Cindy Crawford:

Women viewing images of female nudes almost inevitably compared themselves to the figure and felt inadequate.   Said one women:

…the portrayal of these thin models and I just get depressed… I’m very hard on myself, wanting to be that way.

Women ended up feeling bad whether the model conformed to conventional norms of attractiveness or not.  When looking at a heavy set woman, they often responded like this:

I am disgusted by it because she is fat, but I’m also… I need to lose about 10 pounds.

I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… Her stomach looks like mine.

Now, while I could do some serious feminist theory right now… I’m not gonna. Instead, what I’m gonna do is focus in on the part of this study where, no matter what the women were looking at – a woman they deemed more attractive than themselves or a woman they deemed as less attractive than themselves (as evidenced by their willingness to call said women “disgusting”) – the women still never felt that they were enough.

Do you see how strange that is? A picture of a woman whose body “disgusts” you makes you feel like you need to lose ten pounds? Not to imply by any means that these feelings are “acceptable (?),” but you’d think that looking at the body of someone who disgusts you would make you feel glad to be you… not make you feel even more inadequate.

I mean, really. “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine.” You know how the rest of that sentence goes? “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine… therefore, I don’t find myself that attractive.”

I could even take it a step further: “I don’t necessarily find her body that attractive… her stomach looks like mine… therefore, I don’t find myself that attractive… unless I’ve bought these products/changed myself these ways/done something else that’d require me to purchase a product, because clearly I couldn’t be beautiful on my own.”

And just to prove that I’m not oblivious to the fact that Cindy Crawford doesn’t necessarily pique the interests of my readership in its entirety? What if I posted this? (Not safe for work.) Feelings of inadequacy can start to surface… that is, if you don’t have a sound sense of body image.

Whenever I write about body image, it’s always crickets. Crickets, as in, that’s all I hear. There’s no loud cacaphony of women willing and able to declare how strong (heh) or how sound their understanding of themselves is. There are no women with suggestions of how women can better accept themselves.

Is it because we don’t know? We don’t have those answers? Perhaps. Perhaps it is.

Self-acceptance isn’t about saying “this is me, and I don’t need to change.” That wouldn’t be true. Self-acceptance is about being happy with who you are now and giving yourself space to grow… because you need to grow. I can love my fat ass and say “I’ll work on it,” without thinking that because my ass is fat, I’m somehow less of a woman or I’m “disgusting.” I can “self-accept” the fact that I have a terrible temper… because I’m still growing away from it. I “self-accept” these things and allow myself to still feel and be beautiful in spite of them. Images and visions of other women don’t make me automatically question myself as a woman.

How does this fit in on a website with weight loss in the title? Simple — a lot of women seek out weight loss because they think it’ll cure whatever inadequacies they think they have… but if your inadequacies don’t even come from a real session of assessing yourself and accepting who you are? Your “inadequacies” will never be addressed. They probably don’t even exist. Might’ve just been something fed to you – “Here, let me show you how perfect you will never be unless you buy my ab roller/hair dye/makeup/other stupid unecessary product.”

I can’t say this enough. Don’t buy into it

By | 2017-06-10T11:26:11+00:00 March 4th, 2014|Body Image, Social Construct|35 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.

35 Comments

  1. Curlstar March 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM - Reply

    I’ll be the first to say AMEN and THANK YOU!

  2. LisaM March 28, 2011 at 11:08 AM - Reply

    Only now at 37, am I no longer affected by media images, celeberties and the like. Its taken years for me to appreciate my body; the fullness of my breasts, the roundness of my backside and everything inbetween. So my goals are no longer to achieve what I see but to applaud what I feel: strength, wellbeing and every breath I take as I get more fit. What brought me to this place?? Alot of soul searching, understanding where my body issues come from and really seeing how my choices, judgements and insecurites effect my own daughters.
    Thank you Erica for helping us THINK about what we ofter chose to IGNORE.

  3. Joy March 28, 2011 at 12:09 PM - Reply

    I feel you on this one. If you are in a body that has gotten you around all of your life, you are doing well. This has been my lesson. That’s not to say that you cannot become healthier, most of us struggle with that, but stressing about what you are not only leads you into a path of greater destruction. That path is one where you always look outside of yourself to satisfy a hunger that almost never has anything to do with food. Furthermore, you have to know that no one looks like these women do in magazines. It’s not reality, it’s someone else’s fantasy. Don’t be held hostage by someone else’s vision of perfection.

  4. Savannah March 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM - Reply

    I want to echo the above sentiments and also say ‘Thank you’ Erika. At 31 it’s sometimes hard to get away from the media assault of what I should look like. I have always struggled with my weight and body image but am now no longer trying to look like a video vixen or the latest ‘It’ girl. I know that I will never be them. I want my body to be defined by what it does and what it can do. I think sometimes self acceptance is hard for women because often times we get trapped into thinking about what is lacking rather than applauding what have accomplished.

  5. KIKI WHITE March 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM - Reply

    *Crickets*

    I wish I had an answer, because, if I did, I’d certainly feel better about myself. However, I’m working on it. As my therapist, says “progress not perfection.”

  6. Streetz March 28, 2011 at 1:37 PM - Reply

    I defintiely agree with this!

    I used to hate my body as a chile, because it was hard seeing other more “athletically looking” guys running around while I was chubby. Once I grew into my body, then i thought I was too skinny! I then realized that I needed to work out and work hard in order to get the body I wanted, and I still loved myself, while knowing that I had room to improve.

    Loving yourself is the hardest part. Dont hate yourself, hate the hours you will have to put in to do better, lol, and use that as motivation to reach your goal.

    Good one E!

  7. Sara March 28, 2011 at 1:39 PM - Reply

    You are on the money right here Erika (as with everything here) I’ve always looked at another woman’s body and checked her out and said ok..nice butt i could work with that…or i wish i had her legs. Then i would look at myself and feel sooo ugly, even tho i know i’m a pretty girl inside and outside…i still think that i could be better “if only” i had her legs, or butt or hair or boobs. Now i’m aware of my worth and i know how to look like Sara should look…i work out now 5 days a week, i still struggle with making it in the gym..and eating right but now i know who i’m doing it for.

    Thank you Erika for sharing with us…We love you much!!! 😉

    Sara

  8. Daphne March 28, 2011 at 2:12 PM - Reply

    Self-acceptance isn’t about saying “this is me, and I don’t need to change.” That wouldn’t be true. Self-acceptance is about being happy with who you are now and giving yourself space to grow… because you need to grow. I can love my fat ass and say “I’ll work on it,” without thinking that because my ass is fat, I’m somehow less of a woman or I’m “disgusting.”

    I agree with this. I have a LOT of weight to lose, and have been a big girl most of my life – but I’ve never been one for self-loathing. But then, I don’t really relate to emotional eating, either, so I sometimes feel like I’m an outsider with regard to body image perceptions. Honestly? I think often times, misery loves company, and women don’t like to be challenged in that way. As in, “What? Why you not tryin’ to complain about your thighs, stomach, hips, waist, etc?” Don’t get me wrong, I see the cellulite and fat. I’m working on it. I just don’t understand how a mentality of “I’m disgusting” or “Girl, I’ll never be a Halle Berry” will aid my efforts.

    In addition, I don’t know HOW to tell a woman to better accept themselves. Do I say, “Ignore the hype? Women in magazines and TV/film are usually airbrushed within an inch of their lives, so it’s not real? There are all kinds of body types, so just deal with yours? Health is more important than body size?” I mean……don’t most women know this? Isn’t it a matter of actually absorbing these concepts and making them meaningful and practical? ‘Cause it seems to be that a lot of women keep such ideas external to themselves in order to cling to the self-loathing. Or maybe it’s that pesky thin = healthy ideal that permeates, so if it comes from me – it’s not credible? I battle with this because it teeters on the edge of unsympathetic, so I feel it’s better to keep quiet (unless someone directly asks my opinion).

    The other thing, I think as it relates to black women specifically, is there are women who may indeed like their bigger bodies, but errbody and their grandma is telling them they are delusional and they need to get with the program (i.e. hit the gym). When perhaps, the messaging should be similar to, “It’s great that you like who you are, but is your quality of life where you want it to be? Is your health?”

    • Karla March 28, 2011 at 8:50 PM - Reply

      “Don’t get me wrong, I see the cellulite and fat. I’m working on it. I just don’t understand how a mentality of ‘I’m disgusting’ or ‘Girl, I’ll never be a Halle Berry’ will aid my efforts.”

      Truer words were never spoken! My co-workers are constantly grouching about needing to get to the gym or some post-baby belly they want to get rid of. Once in a while, there’s the “I’m so fat!” wail. Never mind the insensitivity of the comment to begin with, considering the fact that I’m almost twice the size of any of them. The negative self-talk will not help them, and they can’t seem to see that.

  9. Sonya March 28, 2011 at 6:51 PM - Reply

    I recently read the book of one the “icons” whose body millions have admired or I’m sure did the comparsion game to her. Turns she didn’t accept herself either. I’m now 42 and while I have areas of improvement, I dont allow anyone to tell Im less than based on image that isnt real. I dont even allow it from me. Spent way too many tears and time with that foolishness. If I can make a healthy change then that’s what I will do but in the end the most important muscle for me to exercise and improve is my brain. Nice piece, soror.

  10. NaturalBlackOne March 28, 2011 at 8:43 PM - Reply

    Hi Erika,

    I love this article, and I can relate to alot of it. As a Black woman, I didn’t look at the Cindy Crawfords and say, “I wish I could look like her…” but would look at the beautiful Black woman on the mens magazine covers and felt that I couldn’t even touch her in terms of femininity. I wouldn’t dream of wearing a bikini, nor can I walk properly in high heels. LOL… So I felt even worse about myself, how I’m not “woman” enough… And while I’m not saying men weren’t interested in me throughout the years, I certainly didn’t get the looks the “sexy” body girls got. Especially in being a plus sized woman. This led to years of depression (certainly not the only cause, but it didn’t help matters any) that I’m still trying to get over to this day.

    Funny though, as I’ve gotten older (I’m now 34) I have learned to better accept myself. There really isn’t a way to help a woman feel better about herself. This all comes from within. It takes time. And though one can offer great suggestions, you will always get mostly “crickets” because it’s something most of us struggle with.

    I just want to get to a place where I can feel good about my body. For now, when going out, I dress myself up nicely, match up the makeup (LOL) and make sure my hair is good (real or fake, LOL) and in that way, I feel like I’ve done everything possible to not let myself go. I also try much harder to eat healthier, and less “emotional baggage eating”. it has definitely helped!

    So… Thanks again for this! 🙂

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