Skinny Guilt: Am I Not Allowed To Hate My Body?
By Diane Hopkins of Women Enough
‘I’ve seen your photo and I don’t feel sorry for you,’ a woman who had suffered from poor body image told me. I guess I was asking for that- being skinny and an editor of a website that advocates positive body image for women.
Straight away I felt guilty- ashamed that I have no justification to have bad thoughts about my body. I was having a bad case of skinny guilt.
I wanted to argue my case- protest that I too had legitimate reasons for hating my body. I wished to say that weight was not the only cause of body shame- and point out that I had fat but just not in the right places. I wanted to tell her about all the childhood mocking I had to endure about being chubby, and all the images of curvy models I tried and failed to live up to in my teenage years. I felt like sharing with her how hurt I felt every time the media commented that skinny was ugly and that only women with curves were ‘real’ women.
I felt if only she knew what I had really gone through, that she would understand that I too had a fair claim for despising my physical appearance.
When I thought about it for a few minutes I realized how ridiculous I was being. Me complaining about feeling fat sometimes would be akin to a friend of mine posting that she suffered from poor body self esteem because her breasts were a D cup instead of the DD she wanted them to be. ‘Poor her’, I had thought sarcastically. Not wanting to be insensitive to women who are larger than me is why I have, until now, kept my body shame to myself.
Heavier women do seem to get the brunt of public body shaming. I know I am lucky not to have endured unsolicited comments about my weight or smirks of judgment about my food choices. Being skinny means no one is going to think poorly of me for purchasing an ice cream.
But thoughts of being too fat or not curvy enough still pop into my head whether I share them with other people or not and despite my slender figure.
If you think body shame is 100% about the shape or size of your body, then think again. Every woman can experience it no matter what she looks like. I think it tends to happen the most when we’re feeling low about other things- when someone has rejected us, when work feels stressful, or when we feel out of control in our lives- at those times it is way too easy to criticize our bodies to prove that we are not enough somehow.
It is far easier to focus on loosing a few pounds as the ticket to solve our problems than looking at the real source of them. Whenever I have been rejected by a man I felt like I must be too fat, or not pretty enough or not exotic-looking enough or not something enough. Unfortunately it is an automatic reaction that most women suffer from. We’re told that men are mostly interested in us for our looks so we assume that.
My weight was the one factor of my appearance, wardrobe aside, that I had any sort of control over. I imagined that if just lost a little bit of weight and was able to fit back into my skinny jeans I bought when I was my lightest weight a few years ago, then I would get the love and approval I wanted.
I was wrong. It didn’t matter what my weight was. It was all in my head. As long as I perceived my so-called flaws to be the cause of getting rejected, the more I attracted men to reject me on the basis of my looks. If it wasn’t my weight or size, it was my hair color, or skin color, or size of my breasts.
Skinny genes might run in my family but unfortunately good body self esteem doesn’t. We’re always picking on ourselves- finding fault of all the things we’re not, assuming they’re the cause of any problems we might have.
The saddest thing was that most of the criticism and judgment of my body lived within my head. I assumed what other people were thinking and gave them way too much power to affect my image of myself. When a man said I was not his usual type and his usual type was ‘small’ I took on his judgments and felt fat. But his preferences were never my problem- they never defined my worthiness. I was the one who decided his opinion meant more than my own.
Trying to be someone else’s ideal type never works. I was fighting a losing battle pretending that life would be easier if only I looked different. The only type I can be is mine- and the more I have really owned the looks I do have, the more I’ve attracted people who appreciate my body just the way it is.
The woman who said she didn’t feel sorry for me is right. She shouldn’t and I don’t want her to. I have a healthy body, I don’t struggle with my weight, and the only real cause of body shame is in my head. But what I wish to tell her is that there isn’t any justification for hating your body, regardless of what it looks like and despite what insensitive people out there might say about it.
It doesn’t actually matter what other people think- and not everyone is going to like you, be attracted to you, or want to be your friend regardless of how close to some imaginary beauty ideal you are.
Body shame might be a real problem- and one that is perpetuated by the media – but ultimately we are the ones that get to decide how we choose to think about ourselves. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, and I’m not going to feel sorry for you either. Why? Because there is no excuse or reason in the world to justify hating our own bodies- skinny or not!
This is our mission at Women Enough–to remind women that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Come support our IndiGogo Crowdfunding Campaign that goes live on Nov 18 so we can travel to 10 cities around the world and campaign for positive media change to represent the full range of women’s bodies. You can follow Women Enough on Facebook, Twitter and visit our Website.
Diane Hopkins is a writer and Managing Editor at Women Enough, a not-for-profit organization that works with women that are ready to claim all parts of themselves and live beyond the confines of who they think they ‘should’ be. You can follow her writing on her blog CoffeeShopGuru.