This week’s post is going to be different. Instead of having a structured post, I’m just going to ramble. I’m free writing.
On Monday night I was having trouble falling asleep, so I decided to watch an episode of Lizzie McGuire. Lizzie McGuire is an old Disney Channel show. I’ve seen every single episode, but I enjoy rewatching television shows because I notice details I didn’t before or my perspective has changed, so I view the entire thing differently.
In the episode I watched, Miranda, Lizzie’s best friend, began starving herself in efforts to be “thin enough” for a music video they were shooting with Gordo, their other best friend. It all began when Gordo commented on how much Miranda and Lizzie ate. At school the next day, Miranda stared at a photo of herself (taken by Gordo) and wondered aloud why no one told her she had “like six chins.”
Miranda then skips meals and spends less time with her friends to avoid having them confront her about her unhealthy problem. At the end of the day, she faints during the rehearsal for the music video due to exhaustion and lack of fuel. Since it’s a Disney show, the whole debacle was over and done with in about twenty-five minutes. Miranda ate again after a friend to friend intervention, and the music video was fantastic. Miranda regained her confidence and sense of security.
This episode reminded me of the episode of That’s So Raven when Raven designs a dress, but because of her size, she was told someone else should model it. Since Raven is a strong independent black woman who “don’t need no” model, she modeled it herself. It’s quite an iconic scene:
Magazine Editor: This girl does not have the look!
Raven: The look?! Who says that’s the only look? You make people feel bad if they don’t look like that. No one looks like that!
Model (Emacia): I don’t even look like that …
Raven: Because in case you haven’t noticed, people come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re all beautiful.
I’m sure you can figure out “the look” from the model’s name, Emacia. It’s a play on emaciated, which means extremely, unnaturally thin and scrawny.
There’s even an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody where London and Maddie are preparing for a fashion show when they’re told they fall on opposite sides of the spectrum of imperfect bodies (insert eye roll here). London’s “friend” tells her that her butt is too big and tells Maddie that she has chicken legs. London starves herself for the next few days and over-exercises. Maddie goes an eating binge in an attempt to “fill out her dress.”
In all of those episodes, the characters that had their “flaws” (I used quotation marks because that’s subjective, lol) pointed out went through a period of extreme self-criticism which led to self-harm (starvation, binge eating, and over-exercising). All of these episodes have stuck with me because I can relate to them. Rewatching episodes like those makes me slightly envious of the characters’ abilities to step back into a positive mindset so quickly. Then again, these characters weren’t quiet about their troubles. Miranda was for a while, but because Lizzie was so concerned, she couldn’t help but discuss it.
I’m sure all of these episodes were made because body image and eating disorders are a serious problem, especially for teenagers. We all see these images in popular culture and figure it’s normal, and that’s what everyone is supposed to look like. It warps our self-perception and we become overly critical. It’s not as if our parents don’t tell us how wonderful we are because they do.
I have a tendency to memorize the negative more than I do the positive. Someone told me a few weeks ago that I’m gaining some weight, and I can’t help but replay it over and over in my head. It becomes an obsession. I examine myself constantly. Before I eat. After I eat. Before I go to bed. When I wake up.
Body dysmorphia is “a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance” (adaa.org). I’ve only discussed this with one person. It’s difficult to explain to anyone else.
It’s quite frightening how far-fetched thoughts about my own body can become. I should be grateful that it’s functioning and that I have all ten of my toes as opposed to worrying about the size of my waist. In the scheme of things, it all seems minimal, and that’s what’s frustrating about it for me. I can hear my thoughts and hear how illogical they sound, but it’s never as easy as saying “nah, chill.”
Last semester, I took showers in the dark sometimes, because I didn’t want to look at my body after I got out (yeah, it was that bad). Someone might say “well just don’t look.” Unfortunately, I can’t help it most of the time. Disorderly thinking breeds disordered habits. It’s like there’s something in the back of mind screaming at me “you’ve gained ten pounds, look at how disgusting you are!!!” Not only does this make me obsessive, but it also makes me extremely anxious. It also makes me feel pathetic.
Not only is self-animosity exhausting, but it’s consuming. I’ve steered clear of various clothing items this summer because I disliked the way I looked. It’s not something that goes away as quickly as you’d hope. It’s always there in the back of my mind. It’s a mosquito bump. It itches, so I scratch, even though they say not to. The bump gets bigger, I scratch more, and then I begin itching in another place. The cycle continues. I wouldn’t even call it hyper self-awareness because my perception of myself is so dangerously distorted. Body dysmorphia is self-deprecating.
You know what’s also frustrating? It falls along the lines of being able to recognize my irrational thoughts, but it’s worth mentioning on its own. When I hear people like my mom and my aunts utter that they’re “too fat” or they need to “lose weight” I’m always in disbelief because it’s not true.
my sense of self is warped.
I always have to remind myself that I’m twenty years old and my body isn’t going to look exactly the way it did when I was sixteen. I also have to remind myself that from the end of January to the middle of May, I was mostly sedentary (as well as depressed and stressed – which leads to weight gain in itself). It’s only logical that I’ve gained a bit of weight. Like Raven said, people come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t just one look.
My point is that I struggle with body-image. Although my problem hasn’t been solved in twenty-five minutes, it’s still comforting to know that it’s something that I’ll solve, slowly but surely. I’m happy to assure that my body dysmorphia isn’t nearly as detrimental as it was during the school semester. However, I can’t type out a quick solution to negative body-image issues just yet. Just know that if you’re experiencing something similar, you’re not alone.
Something I try to remind myself of every day is that my body is just one factor and that there are so many more interesting things about me.
I enjoy dark chocolate more than milk chocolate, and Monk used to be my favorite television show. Not only that, but all of my limbs are fully functioning. Who cares if I don’t have “the look”??!!
Every day I have to declare that I’m going to love myself until it’s automatic. I know I’m progressing because some days I wake up and it is automatic.
Thank you for reading my ramble. I plan to make a more organized post on this topic, but for now I just had a lot of thoughts that I wanted to express.
End of ramble.
Be patient and don’t scratch,