I’ve been reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth and discovering some interesting things about society’s perpetuation of women as objects. What I have understood, so far, is that women are only as worthwhile as their ability to adhere to societal standards. This is: THIN and BEAUTIFUL and MADE-UP and COMPLACENT… We are only as powerful as we look.
Unfortunately, this is not how the world is supposed to work. And, in some ways, I don’t think it works that way everywhere, but this concept attaches itself to young impressionable minds and it festers and grows like a cancer, destroying their self-esteem and hope and faith in themselves.
I wanted to be thin to be invisible, not to be as society wanted me. I had wanted to hide in my locker in junior high. I had wanted to fade into the background… Yet, I wanted someone to ask me how I was.
Eating disorders are their own creature a
nd vary with reasons between each person. I still think, to this day, that if I weigh 150 pounds or more, I am more susceptible to being victimized. Too big and too slow to fight back. A lower weight was reinforced after I was victimized by another man in college (a fellow student who played soccer on the intramural team). I never reported it. I was smart enough to keep zipping my pants every time he let go of my hands. Then, I weighed even less and was purging multiple times a day. I shut down a bathroom with my purging. YES! That happens. Food, excessive amounts, clogs toilets and makes them overflow.
I thought if I was just thinner, I would not have been as attractive. I thought that I would be stronger. I did yoga every morning, walked while reading, organized my days into 15-minute intervals, and tried to only eat “good” and “safe” foods. I still threw them up afterward.
I am currently in recovery, but still struggling. My weight is the highest it has ever been—thanks to medicines and depression and other health conditions—and it scares me. I cannot help but wonder if I will be considered easy bait.
Many other women engage in these behaviors to fit societal ideals. They think they will be accepted if they are thin. This is true. I experienced it. I was considered more worthwhile when I was thin; I was considered disciplined and level-headed. I was successful. I pretended to be jovial and fun-loving and was complacent to society’s expectations of me; underneath, I loathed myself because I knew I would never quite be good enough. I was trapped in the Iron Maiden, steadily suffocating on my diseases and societal norms.
So, how does one challenge this?
First, I need to learn to love myself and make goals for myself that are not dictated by photoshopped magazines. I need to find reasons to love myself. I need to remind myself that I am worthwhile and not defined by my disease or my need for treatment. I need to learn balance: balance between my needs and what the world needs of me.