Over the course of this semester, I’ve grown more aware of the prevalence of Body Image issues in our society. Especially among young women.
Body Image issues affect all women in one way or another. Approximately 91 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of women naturally possesses the body type often portrayed by the American media. (More facts about Body Image can be found here.)
It is important now more than ever to encourage young women to embrace their bodies and love themselves for who they are. I realized that this issue is tragic because of its widespread effects. Its not uncommon to discover that another young woman is suffering from an eating disorder. We hear about this stuff every day, the seriousness of the situation is thus forgotten. It doesn’t even phase us. Individuals are categorized into statistics. We forget that they have individual stories to share and that each situation is different. These women are unique, and they all have a story to share.
This is why I really love The Body Image Project.
The Body Image Project is “an online project searching for women and girls of all ages to share their individual experiences and feelings about their own body image perceptions.” All of the stories are posted anonymously. These very personal relations allow women and girls alike to realize that they are not alone. The site asks women and girls to include their age so the reader realizes and witnesses the diverse range of ages and the diverse range of issues that women and girls face. Often, these issues are faced silently.
Daily tasks like eating, brushing your teeth and looking in the mirror can be daunting. So many females struggle through these tasks with a hateful self-loathing. These women and young girls are unnecessarily suffering alone, silenced by a society telling them that there is something wrong with them for not having their life in order. This site gives females a voice, if they so desire the medium of expression. And the truth is, the people who mock eating disorders and body dissatisfaction issues just simply don’t understand. They discredit the seriousness of of an obvious and prevalent societal problem. Their own ignorance contributes to the problem. After all, all they need to do is look at the facts.
The Body Image Project asks women and girls to: “Share your story. Keep it short and simple – the impact will be huge.” It’s a very basic idea, but the words carry power, because they’re real.
Although I have an inherent bias because I love writing and reading raw personal accounts, I believe this site allows females to privately seek help in the comfort of their own home. This is therapeutic for it allows them to realize that they are apart of a community aiming to simply feel better about themselves.
I began reading some of the posts and truly admire these women who are willing to share their vulnerability on the web, even if it is anonymously. I literally googled “Positive Body Image Projects” and was able to find this site on the first page of my search results. And what I love the most is that women take this seriously. The most recent story was posted on October 21st, 2013 by a 29 year-old woman. She wrote: “Slowly, as reality set in, I saw my future husband and children disappear alongside the cessation of my menstrual cycle. Grad school no longer an option because I wanted to lose weight and become ‘thin.’ I couldn’t eat many of the foods I once loved because I was terrified of keeping it in my body.”
It’s heavy stuff. And it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it.
Here’s another excerpt written on December 20, 2011 by a 19 year-old: “Throughout the years, my weight has fluctuated, but my perception of myself has not. I had gotten to the point where I could not see pictures of myself or I would break out in tears and would only eat around 500-800 calories a day and exercise for 2 hours in order to lose weight.”
The Body Image Project allows women and girls to express themselves however they want without the fear of judgement. I read these posts with a hurt in my heart and a yearning to help others feel better about themselves, only to realize that I commit the same crimes towards myself. It’s self-inflicted torture. It’s as if I believe that I deserve to suffer because of an internal guilt I carry about my own character. This inherent insecurity translates to my personal self-image.
“Body image dissatisfaction is a growing epidemic in our society.” Truly. Our society is obsessed with obtaining the perfect body. I believe it reflects on our societal narcissism. This idea that how we look means more than who we are, or even the quality of our character. We are slaves of our own image. We are constricted by this beauty myth of perfection. All the while, we are trying so hard to fit the mold.
This project showcases the war we are at with ourselves. The casualties can be seen in our weakening spirits, nonexistent confidence and unhealthy methods we employ to lose weight.
Put yourself first. Read these posts and identify with your own self-loathing. Realize that there are women who feel like you do. You’re not alone, you are not stupid and you deserve credit.
Let’s work to fight the epidemic stemming from Body Image dissatisfaction, starting with giving ourselves a little self-love.