Wow, the topics of body image and judgement are so huge. And I might be a total fool to try to tackle them. But, I think these are important topics for all women. We all want to believe we’re the best versions of ourselves at all times, but how can we possibly be? And I really would like to know, am I the only woman who goes into judgement mode when I look at other women? It’s terrible, I know, but sharing out loud about uncomfortable topics is my way of healing. So, without further ado, let’s let the healing begin!
Okay, I’m so overwhelmed by how and where to start that I’m just going to start with me. I will tell you what I think and what goes through my mind when I look at another woman.
MY JUDGEMENTS ABOUT OTHER WOMEN ARE REFLECTIONS OF MY OWN BODY IMAGE
Typically, I would say that I judge another woman in relationship to myself. This all happens subconsciously I believe. And I don’t even realize at the time that my judgements have anything to do with me and my body image. When I’m looking at another woman, it always feels like it’s about her. But of course, it never is. And it’s very easy to sit back and judge from afar, rather than deal with my own stuff. Unfortunately, it’s a super insidious way that we as women try to avoid our feelings of insecurity and shame about our own bodies.
I would like to think I have a healthy body image. But if I did, wouldn’t I look around at all women and just appreciate them fully? Wouldn’t I have zero reason to judge? If I’m judging, there’s something about me and my body that I’m hating on, even if it’s deep-seated.
When I look at a woman and she is skinnier than me, I have thoughts. When I look at a woman and she is prettier than me, I have thoughts. If I look at a woman who is wearing an outfit that is way cooler than mine, I have thoughts. And these thoughts are not all bad. But sometimes they are.
THE “SKINNY” COMPLEX
First of all, let’s just examine how strange it is that skinny is apparently the ideal, and we all fall all over ourselves in relationship to this ideal. But really, who decided that skinny was good? I’m not saying skinny is bad. I’m just saying, it should be neutral. But, of course, it’s not.
I seem to remember hearing something once about how royalty from hundreds of years ago, who had ample weight to spare, were viewed as the ideal. They were well-fed and completely not “skinny,” because they had everything they could ever want, all manner of food at their fingertips, and never did much physical activity. They ate and lounged, and they were the ideal, because their way of life was rare and difficult to obtain. And the monetarily poor, lean and skinny farmers in the field, and this body type, was viewed as unattractive and common. But these days, most people in our culture would kill to look like lean farmers! So, it seems to be that whatever is the most seemingly unobtainable standard within the culture at the time, determines what’s the most attractive and desirable.
None of these royal figures are greatly overweight when you really look at them, and to me look rather healthy and natural. And yet, in our society today, they would most likely be considered “fat” when compared to the thin ideal we currently have in place.
“In Uganda, we visited a village where members of the Hima people explained to us that a woman is only beautiful if she is what our society deems ‘overweight.’ We visited a fattening hut where a bride prepared for her wedding by adding as much weight as she could.”-Jessica Simpson, Open Book
Right now, in our culture, skinny is the ideal. In most first-world countries, for most members of society, obtaining food is not a problem. We all have access to as much food as we want, for the most part. And actually, the ability to avoid all that food, is the thing that is coveted. What a sick and twisted, backwards world.
Laura Aguilar, Center 94, 2000. The Laura Aguilar Trust of 2016.
“In melding her body with the landscape, Aguilar forced viewers to see her large body, asking them to appreciate its beauty, just as they did with the landscape surrounding her.”-Maximilíano Durán, ARTnews
IF SHE LOOKS SKINNIER THAN ME
It’s crazy, but even this can be broken down a bit further, by defining what kind of skinny. If she looks to me like she’s skinny, but not too skinny, I’m instantly envious. A woman who has found that sweet spot of thin, but healthy-looking, is sort of the gold standard in our culture. So, when a woman achieves that, she is basically worshipped. However, if she looks like she’s skinner than what I think is healthy, I instantly start judging and assume she might have an eating disorder. Either way, whether I realize it or not, I’m weighing (pun intended) myself against another woman and making judgements accordingly. And these judgements are 100% to make myself feel better about any of my body insecurities.
You might enjoy my related article, CONFESSIONS OF AN ENVIOUS GODDESS.
The thing is, these critical thoughts happen so fast, I can’t even control it. Where does this come from? Did I learn this early in grammar school? If anything, back then girls were judging me based on how NOT skinny I was. And then I found that when I became skinnier, thanks to a growth spurt in the 6th grade, no one teased me anymore. How terrible is it that in order for me to be accepted by other girls (and boys), I had to be at an “unoffensive” weight?
Regardless of where this instant reflex to judge came from, it seems to happen to me automatically. When I see a woman of an “ideal” weight, I find myself scanning her body for flaws. Not because I think she sucks. But because in my mind, if I can find a flaw, I can relieve myself of the pain of not measuring up to her. #truth
IF SHE LOOKS PRETTIER THAN ME
Ok, so this one is going to be like a horrible, full disclosure. But then again, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Because the truth is, I think I’m super pretty and sometimes borderline beautiful. Another interesting issue to contemplate that I feel the need to apologize for declaring that.
However, even though I think I’m super pretty, I can get super competitive if I come across a woman who matches my level of prettiness. So again, this competitiveness reveals more about me and my actual feelings of insecurity, than it does about another pretty woman.
Sometimes, when I’m riding the train, I will look around to assess my competition. If I do a scan and determine that I’m the prettiest gal in the land, then I will go about my business, content. However, if I spot a super pretty, nice looking woman, all sorts of feelings arise. I will start to wonder about her life. Is she nice, or is she a jerk? Does she have a husband who is madly in love with her? Where does she live? Is she living my dream life?
It’s so crazy that I connect prettiness with character and lifestyle. When really, one has not much to do with the other. And when it comes to prettiness, for the most part, pretty women can’t exactly take the credit for their prettiness. Aside from some basic maintenance and upkeep stuff, it’s genetics. They are essentially blameless with regards to their looks. But a beautiful woman is triggering to me, nonetheless.
This reminds me of a TED Talk I once saw called, “Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.” I mean, easy for her to say, right? But she has some interesting perspectives on this topic.
IF HER STYLE KICKS ASS
With this one, I find myself a bit more forgiving. Maybe.
I actually discuss a bit of this with my twin sister in my latest podcast episode, “Bodily Function Junction: Teeth and Hair, Beauty and Body Image, and Tampons.” In the episode, my sister talks about three young women she came across in the bagel shop that morning. And even though I had never seen these women, I found myself intrigued by my sister’s description of them. In the episode, we discuss the topics of our own beauty and body image issues, and discuss our feelings about these three women, among other things.
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Style is tricky, because style can be so personal. It is also quite changeable. Weight and genetics are less changeable, so therefore trigger me because of a greater sense of a lack of control. However, when I see a stylish gal and love her look, I feel several different things.
I might genuinely appreciate her look and move on with my day. I might even take something she does as inspiration and think of ways I can incorporate that into my own style. However, sometimes, I might judge. If she’s wearing something that looks expensive, I might judge her life. Maybe I will judge her financial situation and find negative ways to rationalize her wealth. Because again, the reality of her unattainable wow-ness can feel too painful for me to accept. So in my mind, I cut and slash the truth, latch onto assumptions, and spin my judgements in order to ease my mind.
BODY IMAGE GOALS
I don’t believe we as women judge as harshly those who do not pose a competitive threat. It sounds so terrible to say it this way, but I don’t know how else to say it. If I feel like I’m more attractive than a woman I’m assessing, I feel kind of neutral. Or, I might think genuinely complimentary thoughts about her. It’s kind of like, if the threat is not active, then I can sit back and actually view her with unconditional love and appreciation.
How lovely would it be to make complete and utter peace with my own image? And then subsequently, look at a skinny, or beautiful, or stylish woman and think, “Good for her!” I’m sorry, but I’m just not there yet. I think the older I get, the easier it gets. Maybe as we age, the inevitable becomes so much more real. And fighting against that loss of beauty and youth just becomes more and more exhausting. Instead, acceptance becomes the natural progression. And with acceptance comes love. Love for myself and unconditional love for other women.
COMPETITION FOR MEN
I’m not going to lie, but I do think ever since I entered into a long-term, committed, loving relationship, I don’t feel as competitive towards women. When I was single, it was kind of too much, seeing a beautiful woman. It was like, “So, you’re WAY more gorgeous than me. And now I feel even worse, because of course since I’m not as pretty as you, that’s why I’m still single.” Ugh, the ways we torture ourselves as young women.
I do think a part of us is in fact hard-wired to compete with other women. Back in the days of cavemen, we literally needed a man in order to survive. He found the food and protected us from big, scary animals. We had his babies and picked berries, or whatever. And if he would ever leave us, our survival was truly threatened. My, how far we have come! Sort of. Whatever, that’s for another article. Because really, it’s still pretty apparent that we continue to battle uphill for living a life of freedom and happiness without a man. Not only does society tells us this is a whack idea, but our deepest instincts can steer us away from our freedom as well.
BODY IMAGE HEALING
No matter what forces we are fighting against, I do think our greatest gift as humans is our ability to evolve. And I don’t mean in a Darwinian sense, but in a spiritual sense. We are born into whatever fucked up situations we are born into. And despite that, we can still choose, in every single moment of our lives, what kind of people we want to be. We are SO powerful.
I never used to think that judging other women was all that terrible. I assumed we all did it to each other. And most of us do. But that doesn’t mean that this is a good place to stay. I want to be a goddess here on Earth. And I don’t want to just be a product of my society, and use that as an excuse for conditional love. I want to transcend what’s been given to me, and become the kind of woman that would make a goddess proud.
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN GODDESS
I leave you with an image of the goddess Artemis. Artemis is truly a sister of all women. She fights for and defends those who are vulnerable, especially women.
She is the one you call if you’ve been wronged by a man and need someone to fuck some shit up for you. Artemis is the goddess you take to a club if you don’t want men grinding up against you all night. She won’t allow that shit and she’ll place her body in between you and a creepy dude at all costs. (I actually had a friend do this for me once at a club, and I have never felt so cared for. She literally wrapped her leg around my body and screamed in the guy’s face for me. Thank you, Jessica). Artemis would never tear another woman down. I mean, maybe, if another woman fucks up her shit. But in general, this goddess is the big sister who stands up for you and looks out for you in life.
I aspire to gain Artemis’s approval. I know I’m not there yet, but I don’t think I’m tremendously far. Sometimes, the intention can be more powerful than anything else. As I have in the past, I am sharing my raw thoughts with you in the hopes of growth. You are my witness, and I thank you for hearing me. Will you join me? And if you are farther ahead of me, will you show me the way? I’m sure I have so much to learn from you as well.
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Featured photo by Chris Murray on Unsplash
Cameron Russell photo obtained here
Artemis photo obtained here