The Perfect(ionist's) Body

Last month, I attended an event at which renowned Psychologist and Author, Steve Biddulph was speaking on the topic of ‘Raising Girls.’

The talk was informative and emotional. The heartfelt concern for the well-being of girls and young women was tangible in the room.

Frustrated by the way young women are relentlessly targeted by advertisers and marketers, Steve touched on four messages which he feels the media is bombarding girls with:

  1. Your looks are the most important thing about you

  2. Your body is never good enough

  3. Sex is something you trade for love and belonging, or sometimes power

  4. Its fine and normal to have sex with people you don’t know or even like

While all points are deeply concerning, I have highlighted the first two as I feel that both of them relate specifically to perfectionism when it comes to young women and their bodies.

If we take this one step further, they pertain to perfectionism when it comes to our own bodies. The attitudes of fathers, mothers and other role models toward their own bodies have a profound influence on young observers.

Steve argued that there’s only one way that a girl is going learn to say, “I love my body!” and that comes from hearing someone else say it.

It doesn’t come from her parents constantly telling her she is beautiful, but from them believing that about themselves.

Most people have an image in their minds of what they would ideally look like. Unfortunately, we are showing the next generation that if they could just make some changes here and there, their bodies would be perfect.

We model that when we complain about our bodies, no matter how flippantly.

Alternatively, we could reflect on the insecurities behind our dissatisfaction and/or the narrow minded thinking around what bodies are for.

We can ask ourselves:

  • Is my body for my own pleasure or for the pleasure of others?

  • Do I focus more on the outer aesthetics of my body than on marvelling at the highly complex functions he or she performs on a second-by-second basis?

  • Do I spend more time loathing my body or feeling grateful for my body?

  • How often am I listening to the signals my body is sending to my brain about how I am doing?

  • What is my perception of beauty based on?

  • Will openly voicing my disdain help me or others around me?

  • Is it time I get help with my feelings about my body?

Some of us need a complete overhaul when it comes to our body image. Others only need to make minor changes to the well-worn paths their thought processes usually follow.

For example, you might be thinking, “Even though I complain about my legs from time to time, I sure am grateful that they carry me everywhere.”

Okay, great! But, does that translate into your speech?

What proportion of our words are spent in appreciation over our bodies compared to the number of words used up complaining?

Remember, the malleable, young minds around us are picking up on this. Your speech will affect their internal narrative about their own bodies.

Furthermore, being overly critical of something and being grateful for the same thing tend to be mutually exclusive. That doesn't mean we should put on rose-coloured glasses. Instead, we could try to turn the volume down on the inner critic and turn it up on the inner fan.

Perfectionism culture says we need to be critical of our bodies. Think counter-culturally.

Which parts do you love? Which parts can you learn to appreciate? What can you add or remove from your daily routine that would help you feel more comfortable in your own skin?

Related post: What does beauty look like to you?