The Skinny on Being Skinny
At some point everyone feels embarrassed or uncomfortable in their body. Yes, I am even speaking about the supermodels with legs for days, and the famous actors and actresses whom everyone admires. This feeling of discontentment, or even hatred, with one’s body has got to be one of the hardest and most powerful feelings to deal with. Today though, I am going to talk about something that is on the “do-not-talk-about” subject list. A topic that in our culture is faux pas, and looked down upon if it is so much as mentioned. It is how a skinny girl can feel both dissatisfaction and embarrassment about her body.
Now, please hear me out about two very important things. #1). I do not have an eating disorder in any sense of the term. In fact, if eating food could be a hobby, I would be the first to sign up. #2). (And most important) This is not an “oh, woe-is-me” article attempting to gain sympathy for my naturally slim physique. That is not it at all. I am very blessed to have the body I have, and I think the struggles and negative attention that overweight people deal with are very real and far exceed the criticism that thin bodies receive. I understand that it is a weekly, daily, and hourly commitment to bravely - even if you do not feel brave, it is brave - face the seemingly insurmountable pressure to be thinner. I am not trying to take that away from anyone.
As for me, I am naturally skinny. If I made some of you cringe with that last sentence, I apologize for making you uncomfortable, and I hope you know that you are beautiful and that you are good enough. Me being skinny takes nothing away from the person you are, and what you can offer this world. However, I should mention that I cannot be sorry for saying it. Skinny is the way that God made me, and I would be lying if I said I was not grateful.
This gratitude does not come without its costs though. It is hard to think of someone in my life who has not commented on my weight. Family, friends, co-workers, strangers, you name it. “Watch out, the wind is blowing. You may blow away.” “You don’t need to work out. You’re skinny enough.” “You must never eat.” “Maybe if you were double your size you would look like a real person.” “Give Casey the extra food, she needs to fatten up.” While I realize that these people hopefully do not mean harm and are well-intentioned, these comments almost always seem accusatory. If they are trying to make me feel guilty about my weight, they work. It is not comfortable to feel guilty about something is out of my control - a God-given fast metabolism and athletic frame.
Being a skinny girl means probably having been labeled as “the skinny one” at one point. It means you will be told that “real women have curves” and that “guys don’t like stick figures”. It means you are probably wearing the same bra size you wore in middle school. No matter what you do, you probably cannot gain weight and you receive eye rolls when you voice your frustration. People will tell you that they would “love to have your problem”, thereby invalidating your insecurities and leaving you alone to take on your negative body image and mental demons. You’ll be asked "why you are working out", as if the only reason to exercise is to lose weight, and not to gain strength or to do something healthy for your body. It will probably also be assumed you have an eating disorder if you do work out.
All of these things are assumed or said, and it is socially acceptable. What is not socially acceptable is for the receiver of these hurtful comments to refute them - because how dare you have the audacity to feel uncomfortable in your skinny body.
Not only does this skinny shaming make me feel uncomfortable, but this societal habit also affects and belittles people who truly suffer from eating disorders. My frame alone should never be the end-all sign that I suffer from an eating disorder. This takes away from the seriousness of these disorders, and from the fact that disorders do not come in a “one-look-fits-all” category. I would be lying if I said I haven't eaten food out of spite, in order to prove to others that I did not have an eating disorder.
Being skinny does not mean you cannot feel embarrassment, shame, or guilt. Being overweight does not mean you cannot be happy, confident, or proud.
My goal in writing this is to mainly point out how flawed our society’s conception of beauty is, and to ask why we would rather focus on other’s perceived imperfections, especially when it just ends up hurting ourselves in the long run. The perfect body does not exist, and even women with skinny bodies do not evade criticism about their appearance. Pointing out flaws in someone else, makes it OK for us to see flaws in ourselves. It makes us feel like if we can see the imperfections in others, then others can see the imperfections in us. This makes us self-conscious and drives us to the gym, or to eat less, or to feel bodily shame, or to feel countless other negative emotions.
I want everyone to feel beautiful and to love themselves. We speak as if smaller framed people are the societal goal, but in reality, every. single. body. is scrutinized and judged because that is the true goal. If everyone feels uncomfortable in front of a mirror, then no one suffers alone.
Well, let me tell you this. WE are society. We adhere to these societal rules, so that means we can break them. No body shape is better than another and no number on a scale defines worth. If our new societal goal was to love all shapes and sizes, imagine the amazing confidence and renewed self-worth so many people would have. What a beautiful thing that would be.
The change starts with you, you gorgeous human.
Articles for further exploration:
- Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-pittman/skinny-shaming-at-any-age_b_8241966.html
- CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/05/living/body-shaming-skinny-fat-feat/
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2013/aug/05/skinny-shaming-fat-size-appearance
- ABC Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-04/lets-talk-about-the-scourge-of-skinny-shaming/7217682