My Secret Shame

I have a secret shame. Okay, maybe it’s not that big a secret. Anyone who’s been in my company when I’ve had a little too much to drink, or who’s known me for any length of time, will be aware of this. The issue itself it not really a secret, the secret is that I am ashamed of it (okay, that may not really be a secret either).

I pride myself on being a feminist, a very well educated woman, a woman who is on track in the career I have always wanted, a woman who travels, reads a lot (43 books in 2011!), is versed in Australian and international politics, can be a little too passionate about issues and will argue about them until I’m in tears and everyone around me is either laughing or feeling a little sorry for me, and a woman who is blessed with a wonderful loving family filled with strong, bold women that have been wonderful role models and mentors for me as I have grown up.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that every time I look in the mirror I want to scream at myself and smash the mirror. I am not overweight. Well, maybe a tiny bit. My doctor told me I could afford to lose half a kilo. But, I am not unhealthy. I am not unusual. I am, as a matter of fact, quite boringly normal. So why do I, a well educated woman who should know better, obsess so much about such a stupid thing? Why is it, that every time I see a poster of Miranda Kerr I feel a hideous disgust and become so ashamed of my body that I decide to never leave my room?

It’s absurd! I am very ashamed of suffering from such a cliched weakness, but have no idea how to change it. I know all the right things. I know that the ideal I think I want to achieve is unhealthy and unattainable. I know that many of the images I see on posters and the covers of magazines are photoshopped. I could be slimmer if I did more exercise (my New Years resolution for the tenth year in a row) and ate less bread and pasta (but I love them so much!). But I would never have ‘that’ body. I am blessed to have good skin, hair that curls nicely in the right humidity, and I would often call myself pretty (but rarely out loud, as that would make me seem vain and women aren’t supposed to do that, it’s not feminine). But none of that matters when I’m preparing for a night out and change my dress ten times because that one shows the fat above my knees, that one shows the fatty bits around my arm pits, my butt looks too big in that one, my triceps are waving back to me in that one, those shoes make me look like I have cankles… Enough!!!! It’s exhausting! Leave me alone already!

Do I blame the media for my absurd obsession? Of course. I am surrounded by images of super skinny women. When there are successful women who don’t meet the ideal body type, their bodies aren’t shown. Has anyone seen a magazine cover showing Adele’s whole body? I have no problem with Miranda Kerr modelling swimwear, but I’d like to see some size 12 (my size) women modelling for Seafolly as well. It embarrasses me to say this, but I am influenced by the images I see in the media. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was evolved enough to not even notice. I’m working on that, but I’m not there yet.

But it’s also my fault. I think I perpetuate this by talking and thinking about it too much. Only last night I was complaining about this with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. Months! Why did I waste that valuable time talking about my arse?!

So what am I going to do about it? For starters, I’m going to watch more Kate Winslet films. Secondly, I’m going to try and stop talking about my weight. It will be really hard, as I think I talk about it to stave of criticism I think is in the minds of the people I’m with, but most likely isn’t there. I’m putting it there. I will say I’ll exercise more, and I’ll say it’s purely for health reasons. But I say that every year. And in addition to my work, I’m starting a law degree this year. So time will be even more tight, but then, exercise will be more important.

By the way, while I say I’m going to stop talking about this, I mean I’m going to (try) and stop whinging about it to my friends, who are now sick of me. I am going to write more about it in this blog. I also want to write more about feminism and Christianity. I am both, a Christian and a feminist. Many people seem to think these two are mutually exclusive. I call bull shit.

  1. Rebekah said:

    I feel the need to add that this is not a ‘tell me I’m not fat’ post. I know that. I really just wanted to open up a discussion about the absurdity of being an intelligent woman and feminist, and obsessing about something so stupid as body image. I know I’m not the only one.

  2. Shona said:

    Thanks for being so honest! For what it’s worth im a feminist and a Christian too and what you write about is true of most women no matter their age. I find myself comparing my non-surgically enhanced body with women my age like Madonna and Demi Moore! I do wish I could afford a personal trainer, though. All I really want is to have a healthy body, even of it has some cellulite and wrinkles! I refuse to read gossip magazines that perpetuate the unattainable ideal for us normal women.

  3. Aaron Watson said:

    I think this is a sickness of our modern world- for both men and women. The body image thing certainly affects women more…. but so many people look in the mirror and want, expect, and crave to find something more.
    Why can’t we just except the things we have? and be happy for them. But no- we need new cars, new phones, trendy clothes and other material things to make (or at least for a while) us happy.
    There is so much entwined in the psychology of an individual, where they come from, how they grew up, what they learned, what they didn’t learn… and this is also relative to where one is. A rural villager in Cambodia might not be so worried about some of these issues and more worried about others- but it doesn’t mean that one is more or less important than the other. Every human wants to achieve their dreams and goals… and uses whatever means possible.
    The thing you should see in the mirror (without me sounding like I am preaching to you) is all the good stuff underneath the skin. The fact that you take time out of your life ot come and work in Cambodia to help those less fortunate; that you have many good friends who respect you; that you stand up for your believes in feminism and faith… these truths will last much longer than the image looking back at you.
    And some times we just have to simplify things… we put too much pressure on ourselves, juggling too many balls at once. Maybe a few balls less in the air would still make a good show…

  4. Yael said:

    I have the same troubles, except that looking at Miranda Kerr makes me wonder how and extra tall twelve year old with grapefruits on her chest can possibly be thought to be attractive!

    I’ve particularly struggled with my weight over the last couple of years. First losing a lot of weight and then regaining it, and then joining a gym to get fit rather than fighting the fat. All the time however, I’ve been unable to break my interest (obsession would be too strong a word) with the little numbers on the scales.

    Now with a little person growing inside me, I’m having to resign myself that weight gain is inevitable, however I’m trying to keep my fitness as a trade off… If I can’t be thin and fit, then hopefully I can just be fit!

  5. Sarah Elizabeth Grace said:

    As usual, my dear friend, a piece of beauty and eloquence.

    I think this is a deeply ingrained struggle fought by every single woman I know, (and a good portion of men actually).

    I am so proud and grateful to call you friend. And equally for your ability to articulate issues with such a broad range of emotions, beliefs and convictions attached. I always find it incredibly encouraging and releasing to read of other women (especially those I love and/or admire) who have the courage to open themselves up and share what troubles, inspires and enlightens them.

    So, once again, thank you.

    Love you so very much

  6. How do I respond?

    I’m hoping to find answers to a personal issue that I can’t delve into with any detail because to do so would cause me to breech certain privacies that I feel obligated to protect. So, I’ve homed in on two of your questions which appear to be rhetoric because you don’t really answer them here for others to see. I’m sorry, but I have to ask for direct and open answers to these questions; I’m hoping that they lead me to where I need to be:

    Why indeed does a well educated woman who should know better, obsess so much about such a stupid thing?

    Have you figured out exactly why is it, that every time you see a poster of Miranda Kerr (after reading your post, I had to Google her to find out who she is . . . oh, now I get it) you feel a hideous disgust and become so ashamed of my body that you decide to never leave your room?

    I too would like to see some size 12 (my size) women modelling for Seafolly (I also had to Googled them . . . okay, I get that too) as well. I don’t normally do fashion photography but while I know for a fact that there are some size 12 women and larger who model swimwear, there aren’t enough in my POV (I also don’t get the limitations that are placed on how large a plus-sized model is allowed to get; I learned about that last September, and it still doesn’t make sense to me). I’ve been contacted by a number of young women who express their desire to get into fashion modelling, and they’re all skinny to slim. None that have actually contacted me really meet the true definition of plus-sized, and it’s clear that most in that range are reluctant to venture into such waters strictly because of their body consciousness.

    I’d shoot them. I’d love too, and without Photoshopping any weight off but the chances of a larger girl letting me aim a camera at them; for fashion or merely artistic portraiture, is really slim.

  7. Rebekah said:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like you’re suggesting that one of the reasons there are not many plus sized models in the industry is that not enough plus sized women are interested. I certainly don’t know the figures, but I would guess that would be true. But I think that’s a symptom, not a cause. I suspect that many plus-sized women would know that they are not welcome in the industry, which would prevent them from trying in the first place.

    The idea of plus sized models is quite interesting to me, as many of the ones that I’ve seen are not plus sized. They’re normal sized. So I think the labelling of normal (I hate that word) women as plus sized is a problem.

    I have no problem with skinny women modelling. I don’t think that we should vilify skinny women because society sees them as beautiful and us as overweight. I had a friend in high school who was (and still is after a number of children) very skinny. She would get so frustrated with people telling her to put on weight and accusing her of having anorexia (I was quite possibly one of those people, I don’t remember). She didn’t, she was just a very skinny woman naturally. We need to stop telling women how they should look, whether losing or putting on weight, and see beauty in all shapes and sizes.

    I think the modelling industry should be representative. Mainstream brands should use models of all sizes, as their clientele are women of all sizes. We are told that a certain body type is desirable and beautiful. I have seen this body type my entire life. And while I know that it’s ridiculous, if you’re told and shown something over and over again, it’s hard to shake it. Yes, those women are beautiful, but so are Kate Winslet, Adele, and Nigella Lawson and other women who don’t fit into the mould the industry sees as perfect. These women should not be the exception, they should be part of the norm.

    Where’s the variety in modelling? It is, after all, the spice of life!

    P.S. Please pardon all the cliches.

    P.P.S Nice pun in the last sentence!

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