When you are young, you have an unrealistic idea of how you should look. Slim is never slim “enough” – women in media are tiny, and even though you are not much bigger you have such a critical eye on yourself that the difference will seem huge, just like that tiny zit that no one else can see but looks enormous to you.
Then, as you grow older, you envy the body you had when you were young. We forget the pain we were in back then, the fear that we aren’t good enough, or ever could be. We forget the struggle to fit in, the daily fight to stay tiny.
As a society, we expect women and men through all life stages to be slim, look fantastic, eat green. But this doesn’t allow for different shapes, metabolic systems, needing a break for pregnancy, or health issues. The biggest issue though, is that we are impacting on our society’s mental health by imposing unrealistic ideals, leaving everyone feeling inadequate, depressed, or with eating disorders. Sometimes I wonder when we will notice and demand change.
We need to learn to let go of the “ideal”, and instead focus on how we want to feel about ourselves: I'm a much more beautiful person now because I love who I am, I’m passionate about my work, eat food that’s good for me but doesn’t feel like a diet. Perhaps it’s true that you can't be a complete, beautiful person if you don't love who you are, inside as well as out. It is even more true that it is damaging to your mental health if you put all your energy into what you look like, at the expense of what’s going on within.
- Linda is an art therapist and social worker in private practice in the Southern Highlands, NSW and may be contacted for any mental health concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0438 400 446.