"Momma Bare"—aka our body-positive wellness guru, Joni Edelman—offers advice to a woman grappling with body image issues at age 40.
Dear Momma Bare,
My question is . . . when do I finally get over this?! I would have thought that by the time I reached my 40s I would be OK with myself and not still the neurotic stressball that I still can be (though not all the time) around my physical appearance. Had you asked me in high school if I thought I would still be dealing with this as a successful, married (to a great guy), 40 year-old woman, I would have told you, “no way.”
Hey I’m 40 too. That’s weird. I also totally relate to this. Also, ALMOST EVERYONE can relate to this. For serious, 91% of women report dissatisfaction with their body. Ninety-one. I know you know math—that’s 9/10 of women. Guess what, as an additional slap to our already unsatisfactory faces, only 5% of women actually have the body type we see represented in the media (tall, thin, completely unattainable, etc). Yeah. Five percent.
But it’s also encouraging! Huh?
Two reasons: A) You are not alone. B) The chance of you ever attaining “the ideal” are pretty small—5%—and that’s only if you’re tall, thin, etc. For the rest of us inadequate 95%, there is quite literally no chance. At all. Whatsoever. So stop trying for cake’s sake (Using it. Using it forever.). You’re wasting valuable time and energy trying to be something you can’t be. That’s like a cat trying to be a dog! Silly cat.
Also, at age 40 you also have a 5% chance of becoming pregnant in any given month (presuming an effort to become pregnant. Phew.). So there’s that.
Now, onto your question: The solution is actually painfully simple.
Love yourself more.
Just kidding. I said that last week. I mean, it’s valid, but if it was that easy we’d all be doing it and that 91% would be more like oh say 1%. The second, completely reasonable suggestion I offer you? Ignore the media. (HAHAHA.) But really, ask yourself this: If you had no mirror, no TV, no access to the Internet (Facebook/Instagram/oh my god Pinterest), how would you feel about your body (I mean after you're finished sobbing on the leg of saber tooth tiger you are gnawing on)? Do you feel good physically? Are you healthy? Are you happy?
Dissatisfaction, self-loathing, anything other than happiness, it’s born from an external source. You are not born hating your thighs, or your boobs, or your too big/too small/too flat/too bumpy butt. You don't even know what a butt is supposed to look like when you’re born. And you know what else, there are entire industries counting on this self-loathing. The diet and weight loss industry is basically stealing $60,000,000,000 a year. Yes, sixty billion. BILLION. Can you imagine all that we could do in the world with $60,000,000,000? SO MUCH. World hunger? Eradicated. Homeless population? No longer. We could take a really lovely and lengthy vacation. To the MOON. When you read that statistic, does it strike you as absurd? Because it is. Cosmetics, plastic surgery, all of it could disappear if we woke up and decided we are good enough. As we are. The media is built on the concrete foundation of our shitty self-concept.
Ok, so what now, you ask. Well, here are a few things:
Remind yourself, everything about you, your physical body, the parts you loathe, the parts you love, they are all impermanent. Not just in the “I’m going to die someday” realm but in the “We are in constant flux.” When you were 20 you probably loathed just as many parts. Amirite? Of course I am.
Remember: You are so many things besides your physical body. Smart, funny, a great mother/wife/sister/friend. You are your physical body too, obviously, you’re not just floating around at the atomic level, but it’s only a very small ingredient in the bigger recipe that is you.
Furthermore: If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children. Your kids learn how to feel about themselves and other people by watching you. So model it. Fake it till you make it.
Don’t forget: The media (It’s everywhere!) wants you to feel shitty. They are quite literally banking on your shitty feelings. Everywhere you look, they are screaming at you YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
It’s a lie. You are. Just as you are.
With love and cake,
Extra credit: Print this and put it on your bathroom mirror.
Have your own body-image question to ask? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.