By Jillian Michaels
“They would like you to write about your own struggles with body image as a child.” And thus the subject of my blog for this years Women’s Conference was born. The only thing that struck me as odd was the “as a child” part. I’m a full grown 36-year-old woman who still occasionally wrestles with body image issues. Don’t we all, to one degree or another?
The world is subjective and we see it through our mind’s eye. For that reason, our life’s experiences and memories shape or “warp” our vision. This occurs on multiple levels, ranging from personal to professional, but by far the most insidious and potentially dangerous problems this can cause surround our physicality. At the least, body image issues erode self-esteem, and at the worst, they can give way to potentially fatal eating disorders.
The pressure to conform starts practically in utero and comes at us from every direction throughout our lives. Be it family pressures or societal expectations, the moment we are brought into the world, the programming begins, and the rules are laid down. “We behave this way, look and appear that way, talk when and as instructed” and so on.
We are by nature social creatures. We crave conformity and harmony with the population – like it or not. And who wouldn’t? No one wants to be ostracized and face the painful punishment of rejection. For this reason we strive to achieve the idea of perfection that society has impressed upon us. Looping endlessly in the vicious cycle of hope, self-consciousness and self-loathing.
Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and dissected themselves or engaged in a severe verbal bashing? “My body is so gross. I hate my fat knees. I wish I were tall instead of short and dumpy. My hair is thin and stringy. My jiggly arm fat makes me sick.” Blah blah blah. We’ve all been there to one degree or another and felt the sting of this ritual.
So now what? Where does this leave us and how do we change? Who is the enlightened soul that has evolved to the point of tossing off all of our cultural suppositions and basically telling the powers that be where to stick it? The answer to that is no one -- or at least I certainly haven’t met her yet.
In fact, quite the opposite ends up happening. What begins as society's imposition ends up our own doing. Often we collapse under the pressure into submission, falling in line, adopting and propagating these provincial ideas of beauty.
So in actuality, the realization that we have become the problem empowers us to be the solution. In the immortal words of President Truman, “The buck stops here!” We must say no to this pernicious dogma and stop taking part in the endless spiral of judgment and loathing that we subject ourselves and other women to.
We have to create awareness and be conscious of when we engage in this destructive behavior and conversely choose to implement an attitude and actions that are nurturing and life affirming.
When you catch yourself analyzing and criticizing – STOP and immediately pay yourself a compliment. Celebrate the differences among women and appreciate beauty in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Do something nice for yourself like getting a manicure pedicure. Smile at a female co-worker instead of “hating her 'cause she’s beautiful.” Glance over a list of all your accomplishments and all the things about you that your proud of. And so on.
While this stuff might sound trite like a cheesy new age platitude, the truth is that it works. Not overnight. It takes time, diligence, and desire, but doesn’t everything that’s worth fighting for? We have a responsibility to ourselves and to our daughters to send a different message, rewrite the rules, and change the game. It’s up to us to set a new example, lead the way and then support and encourage others to follow suit.
Now, repeat after me “I’m smart, I’m beautiful, I’m funny and doggone it – people like me.” – Stuart Smalley.
Jillian Michaels is a New York Times best-selling author, a trainer and the life coach on the NBC hit series The Biggest Loser, and the star of the NBC show Losing It With Jillian.
Her DVDs, Yoga Meltdown, 30-Day Shred, No More Trouble Zones, and Banish Fat Boost Metabolism, are consistently top sellers on Amazon. In addition, she has two video games — Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009 and Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2010. Her website is JillianMichaels.com
Jillian Michaels will be speaking at The Women’s Conference 2010. Watch the webcast of her breakout session on Tuesday, October 26 on www.womensconference.org.