All bodies are different and we’re not made to look the same - what a revelation this was for me. I was caught up in chasing an ideal body for almost a decade, and throughout that time I fully subscribed to the notion that there is only one way to be, look, or show up as a woman. And if I wasn’t emulating that ideal, I just needed to work harder.
Society has painted a lovely picture regarding the “ideal” female body. It’s tall, but not too tall. Thin and lean with muscle, yet not too much muscle (god forbid we look manly or bulky). Tanned, yet not too dark, and definitely not too pale. Thin yet also curvy at the same time, lest we risk looking like a boy. This perfect body has flawless skin and thick, long hair, yet this only applies to the hair on our heads and eyebrows. Otherwise, hairless.
These are just the physical attributes, let alone how we’re expected to behave and present ourselves.
The interesting thing about this ideal is that it’s ever-changing. For a few decades, Twiggy and Victoria Beckham had the ideal bodies with their waif-like figures, and the current trend is having a “toned” and curvy body with a small waist and noticeable ass. Being thin is not enough; we have to have muscle too.
The bodies so many of us spend our time chasing are trends. Similar to hair or fashion trends, body trends come and go. Yet despite the transient nature of these ideals, we chase them in hopes of validating our worth.
But what happens when that trend shifts or disappears entirely? Does our self-worth go out the window along with it? Marilyn Monroe was once revered as the sexiest woman on the planet, but a decade later during the Twiggy era, she likely would have been considered overweight. And Twiggy’s waif-like figure would likely be deemed too skinny by today’s standards. She’d be pressured to pack on some muscle because “strong is the new skinny”, right?
What if, instead of trying to mold ourselves into these fleeting and superficial ideals, we simply focused on our own bodies. Our bodies that are amazingly unique in so many ways. Bodies that fluctuate and inhabit various levels of body fat and muscle, both in comparison to others and to previous versions of ourselves. What if we understood and accepted that we aren’t in fact designed to look the same?
The pressure would be off, and we would be able to focus on what works for our lifestyles, our priorities, our goals, and most importantly, what works for and with our own bodies. We would no longer be chasing what our neighbor, sister, best friend, or the hottest celebrity has. We would be in our own lanes, focusing on our own unique lives and bodies, with the understanding that replicating someone else is literally impossible.
I spent so many years of my life wishing I was just a few inches shorter due to being taller than almost everyone growing up, meaning I actually wished I inhabited another body. While I now love my 5’ 10.5” height, it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that this physical attribute of mine is never changing. Ever. So why would I waste another minute of my life worrying about it?
Now that I have made peace with my body (most days), I don’t ask her to be anything other than what she is. I wouldn’t dare ask that of anyone I love, so why would I do that to the vessel that will carry me through this life? Especially after all of the shit I have put her through?
A funny thing happened when I finally decided to be on the same team as my body, and I actually talk to her as if she is one. I began to celebrate my body’s unique qualities, started to celebrate the differences in others, and I reveled in the fact that we’re all amazingly different.
During the times when I notice physical attributes on other women that I wish were my own, I bring my attention back to my own body; my home. I remember that I get to define my own ideal, and it’s the body I already have.
At the end of the day, we have two choices: to spend our days chasing something we’ll never have and that wasn’t ever meant to be ours in the first place, or we can choose to double down on ourselves and be our own ideal.