The other day I was scrolling through social media, seeing a lot of the usual “body transformation” pictures, fitness accounts, and female body-centered content, when something sort of….hit me. They were primarily positive messages: women showcasing self-improvement and talking about how lifestyle changes in fitness and nutrition bettered their quality of life; articles about the rise of more diverse bodies being used in the media, and a lot of fitness professionals and bloggers drawing back the curtain to remind women that so much of what we see on social media is “filtered” (angles, lighting, choosing the best of 73 photo attempts, and literal filters). All awesome stuff.
But I noticed that it pissed me off. Let me explain.
As a professional health coach, I deliberately share my own wellness journey. I talk a LOT about my history with eating disorders and my ongoing struggles and healing (yes, both are simultaneously ongoing) because my hope is that by honestly sharing my experiences with food, dieting, and body image, I can make others feel less alone in their experiences. Maybe that means they are more comfortable seeking help, confiding in someone, or maybe it simply means they feel a little more understood. A lot of the breakthroughs I see from clients happen when they simply vocalize things that they have been alone in their heads with for years, so opening up that dialogue is critical.
And I’m thrilled to finally see an (small but significant) increase in the attention being given to body positivity movements and the awareness of a need to showcase how women of all shapes, sizes and colors personify beauty. BUT. It bothered me that so much of what is being discussed is geared around women’s bodies.
Yes! I want to celebrate the beauty of women in all its forms. Yes! I want to encourage a healthy dialogue about proper nutrition and why the ideal so often portrayed in the media is not attainable for most women. But why are we always talking about a woman's body? Why are we so focused on what she looks like – even when it’s a positive message? If we are devoting so much attention to her body, aren't we devoting less to her mind, her soul, her impact on the world?
That’s when I got sort of worked up. It’s great that we are shifting the dialogue, but don’t we also need to change the dialogue completely from being body-focused to being everything-else-a-woman-is focused?
I'm not suggesting that people should stop posting about their progress – it’s powerful to celebrate your success and is great to try to inspire others! And I certainly want to see more prominent representations of diverse bodies and definitions of beauty. I'm just suggesting that there’s actually a shit ton else to talk about with regards to women – so let’s do that too.
And, let me be clear. I am not excluding myself from this call. I need the reminder as much as anyone. Ladies, celebrate your and one another’s victories at work and as friends, sisters and moms. Call attention to the advances women are making in business and technology, to the influence women are having in politics and education, to the vital role they play in raising our sons and daughters. Share THAT on social media!
I can tell you that the women in my life enrich me and the world around me EVERY SINGLE DAY and I’m willing to bet the women in yours do the same. They raise babies and own businesses. They teach and they take care of many. They overcome the impossible and inspire strength in others. They sacrifice and love, they create things and save lives.
So, by all means, please do celebrate your body. It does some pretty phenomenal things. But remember: your value as a human being and your contributions to society are as, if not more, worthy of talking about than your before-and-after pictures.