Body Image and Self Esteem

This is the start of a four-part blogs about the body. this one is about the psychological body image of women.

A few days ago I saw the documentary Embrace on Netflix. It is about how photographer Taryn Brumfitt put two photo’s of herself online that would mimic the “before” and “after” picture that feature weight loss sites. She set out to portray how the photo of her trained self showed how she was much less happy than in her after photo.

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Photo: Taryn Brumfitt

She posted the photo’s on social media and it went viral. She got a lot of (nasty) response, that was not always easy to cope with.

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Body and Curves

The documentary made an impact on me. For several reasons. One is my mother.

I used to love my mother (I still do, but she is deceased now). I felt she was the most beautiful woman on earth.

My mother did not like her own body very much. She was obese. While I perceived my mother’s body to be soft curvy and inviting my mother was doing exercises and wearing corsets.

So I can understand why Taryn Brumfitt felt she could give her own daughter an important message if she posted those two pictures. The documentary shows how embracing our self-image leads to an easier acceptance of the bodies of ourselves and other women.

I grew up really skinny. And being diabetic, when I was 11, most of my fat was gone. I was skinny as a skeleton.

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When I went to high school I craved to have some breasts. Girls with breasts were popular. I wanted to be popular too.

I remember looking into the mirror at that age, looking at my tiny flat chest with the ribs sticking out and mumbling to my non existing breasts: “please come out”.

A girl needs to have enough body fat to feed a baby, before her curves and her period starts to emerge.

So while my mother was fighting her curves I longed to have them. And finally, at the age of 16, there they where. And yes, I was happy. For a while.

The Female Body and Male sexuality

There is an odd thing going on in our society, when it comes to the female body and male sexuality. They are tied together. I found that out in a very humiliating way. But the humiliation was so devastating that I took notes and changed.

The perception, and maybe the appreciation of my own body changed. Now being a girl was not a thing to be joyful for. My curves made me an object. Society depersonalized me.

When I was a very young girl, I started to buy my own clothes. I enjoyed my new body with all its curviness. One day I bought an off the shoulder shirt. A black one.

When a wore it a couple of days later a guy made a very rude and explicit sexual remark to me. I was very young and deeply shocked about it.

But when I told it to my older sister and her friend, they said to me: “yes of course you are going to get remarks like that if you show half of your shoulder”.

I was in shock. No kidding. I was.

That was the first day I understood that the cultural perception of men is that they are nothing more than a walking around bags of testosterone, waiting to be ignited by a woman.

And that I, as a woman, should adjust the way I dress myself. Because if a man was sexually rude to me, it was my responsibility, not his.

I should stay indoors at night. Because if I am out, and I am being violated, it is my responsibility.

I felt and feel extremely uncomfortable with this. And I can honestly not imagine why we, males and females, have not joined forces to stop this.

But up to this day it is still a fact. I had a meeting a couple of days ago that was late at night, so I was required to be at a station in a big town. I felt so uncomfortable. Even now, in the twenties of this new century, I am not comfortable on the streets alone in the dark. I could not avoid it (even though I asked if it was possible to join the meeting online).

Aranja Yohar  has worded it in this film so much more eloquent than I ever could. What she describes, all women, everywhere have experienced.

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Aranya Johar

 

Brown, black, orange, white, even purple women. We all know what she is talking about.

I cried when I saw this. She is at her age, so much smarter than I was. I had to be molested, insulted, nearly raped before I understood that male sexuality is considered to be my responsibility. But now I know. I am constantly aware of it.

Body and Acceptance

In Embrace Taryn Brumfitt assumes that the pictures of perfect girls have a great inpact on how we perceive our own bodies.

Because on the one hand we want to look nice but on the other hand we don’t want to look like the girls on the frontpage of Cosmopolitan. We know for a fact that if we would walk out in the street like that, we would get molested quite soon.

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I am not sure if models and magazines really had that much of an impact on the perception of my body. I always perceived the lives of models to be completely out of my reach. It took place in another universe, not in mine.

Have the pictures in magazines had an influence on your body image?
What has affected your body image in a positive way?

Body: Tips?

I am aware that I have written this blog from a female perspective. Being mother of two teenage boys, I know a lot of them have body-issues too.

There are the “hunks” who sport a lot and look mature and attractive. I know some teenage kids are tempted to use testosterone to improve their muscles and become more impressive.

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I know that when you are a guy, you’d better be tall. That is a cultural requirement if you want to be seen as a potential leader who can handle responsibility.

I would like to hear your perspective. (How) Has you struggled with your body? Has getting older helped you accept your body? Do you watch what you eat?

My next blog in this series will be about the spiritual body;
The third blog will be about the dreaming body;
The last blog will be about the body of poetry.

 

I like nothing better than to give away valuable information to make your life better. Here are two books to choose from: 10 tips to remember more dreams and a report on Mutual Dreaming 


THIS CONTENT IS CREATED BY SUSANNE VAN DOORN, AUTHOR AND OWNER OF MINDFUNDA; MAKING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF PSYCHOLOGY, MYTHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY EASY TO USE IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE!

What is Mindfunda about?

My name is Susanne van Doorn, I am a Dutch psychologist, blogger and author. I have been working with psychology, dreams and mythology ever since I finished my study in psychology at Tilburg University. I made this independant site to share insights, and recent scientific articles about the brain, dreams, and mythology for use in your personal life.

This posting is categorised as Spirifunda:
psychology for everyday with a spiritual layer of meaning, searching for the soul. Our brains are wired for believe in magic. In a world filled with rationality, you sometimes need a little magic, a little “I wonder why”. Synchronicity, the insights of Carl Jung, the mythology used by Freud, the archetypical layers in the Tarot, the wisdom of the I Tjing, Shamanism, the oldest religion of humanity, all that information gets published in the Spirifunda section of Mindfunda.

Read more about Mindfunda here, or visit our Courses Page.


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One thought on “Body Image and Self Esteem”

  1. Dear Susanne, This is such an important topic! I tried to find the documentary on Netflix but couldn’t, although I caught some great scenes and interviews with Taryn on YouTube. As I grew up I sense my mother hated her body too, choosing to barely feed herself for many years until she dropped to a dangerously low weight. Thankfully in later years she started eating. I think my father had an eating disorder too, so I guess it was no surprise when I succumbed to Bulimia Nervosa in my late teens. You could say in was in my genes! I expect many women will be nodding throughout your “what to wear out” stories and I loved the video with Aranya reciting her excellent poem! Looking forward to reading your next article already. Blessings always, Deborah.

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