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Stephanie Willis: Body image often holds women back

The real reason why most women have too many clothes is not because they are addicted to shopping. Sure we are often easily persuaded by beautiful spring colors and trendy fashion items that our friends are scooping up. Honestly, women often purchase new clothes because a good majority of what we have tucked in our dressers just doesn’t fit anymore.

Go ahead and take a mental poll of what’s folded in your vacuum-sealed storage bags and hanging in the back corner closet.

Be honest, are you saving that dress from five years ago because it’s pretty, or are you holding onto the hope of a body that you don’t have any more?

This is a minor difference between most men and women. Though men may at times desire they had the physique from their college days, they don’t tend to associate that body type with values of worth and acceptance the way women often do.

Many women see that past image of themselves, and their mind sends them thoughts like, “See you were so much prettier then, you have to get back to that.”

Those images are often showing women a time when they were thinner or had more narrow body frames. Thoughts like these on a deeper message tell us, “You aren’t good enough. Other women are winning, and you will always be behind them. Your body has betrayed you.”

With messages like these, it is no wonder we store old clothes as symbols of our false perceptions of what we look like. We walk around often holding grudges against ourselves for letting that body get away from us.

Researcher Jean Kilbourne, since the 1960s, has been educating about the relationship between advertisement and public health issues.

Her videos called “Killing Us Softly,” readily available online, highlight how these ads objectify women and sadly contort women of other ethnicities to look whiter, thinner, with unnaturally smooth straight hair.

The more challenging accountability sits within ourselves, especially with all the rules and promises we have imprisoned ourselves with over the years psychologically telling ourselves who we are is equal to how we look. Consider watching the documentary “Miss Representation” to learn more on how this affects women and girls.

Frankly, blaming advertisement and media alone is too easy of a way out. Certainly, while it is irresponsible to ignore its powerful influence, we cannot also ignore the influence of when we let our thoughts dictate our life.

Before we try to change our weight numbers and clothes sizes, start by adjusting your relationship with your thoughts and feelings about your body. Think of those messages like the sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice, “Wah wah woh wah wah woh.” They are just words, they are not laws you must follow.

Listening to our thoughts, instead of our values, means believing a story about our life and often disengages us from actually living our real life in our real bodies.

Who you are and what matters to you rarely changes in size.

 

Stephanie Willis is president of Willis Counseling & Consulting a private group therapy practice in Naperville and Chicago. She can be reached at www.williscc.com and 630-481-6463.

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