Since I first took a deep dive of introspective focus on body image, I’ve honed in on something: Our society is quick to notice and value the surface. Obviously – I mean, it’s natural to acknowledge the first thing we see. And through diet culture, we’re pressured to keep up appearances for whatever reason currently motivating us. I get it.
I recently posted a graphic on social media promoting one of my speaking opportunities. It included my headshot with pertinent details for friends to join if they wished. The post received 8 comments – 5 of which were about my appearance. When I voiced frustration to my husband, he shrugged it off as being too sensitive. Maybe I am. But maybe I should be!
“Many people are surprised to learn that body compliments can be a form of judging a person by their appearance, such as “You look great—how much weight did you lose?” or “I wish I had a body like yours.”
—Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch, Intuitive Eating
Examples like this run rampant on social media.
On the occasion I receive a new follower on Instagram, I’ll click through the profile to catch a glimpse of who’s behind the avatar. This week, I came across another girl in ED recovery. Her feed was mostly food shots: a cookie in one post, a sandwich with chips in another. The three most recent were selfies. I caught myself cringing at how tight the skin was on her cheeks and the frailness of her frame.
Self-check: Here I am preaching body positivity and I can’t show the same love for someone struggling with anorexia? Guilty.
The reality of the situation is, she and I probably have several similarities when it comes to the roots of body dysmorphia. This makes me wonder about everyone with whom I come in contact. Am I so strapped for time that I can’t take a few minutes to discover something beneath someone’s surface? Slowing down and becoming a little more intentional with my time might yield an ability to speak to their sweet spirit or ability to do something well; something beyond “you look great!”
My parents and I have been joking about difficult personalities lately. My mom calls them “sandpaper people” because they rub you the wrong way. Raised by her eternal optimism, I’ve been taught to learn lessons through tough situations over resenting the people who cause them. This is always easier said than done.
After the creative conference I attended in September, I started to follow Brad Montague, creator of Kid President. He suggests we view all people – difficult or not – as human beings that just want to be loved. This is a small but radical idea, taking opinions, circumstances, and characteristics off the table.
By doing this, we’re on the same level. We all have common ground.
I’ve been experimenting with this, starting with my friends. In such a short time, I’m already finding joy in reflecting on the person, identifying their strengths, and communicating that I see them.
After all, aren’t we so much more than the bodies we wear or our gravitational pull reflected as a number on the scale? We are creativity and talent, heart and soul, passion and intelligence. And we all need to be seen for the unique things that make us… us.