Do you know someone who thinks this way?…
Every eating disordered woman I’ve met, operated under a belief that I refer to as the Dangerous Seed of Magical Thinking. That’s right. No matter how much life experience they had, or how formally educated they were, there was always a powerful belief that existed beneath the surface. It wasn’t said out loud. But the Dangerous Seed of Magical Thinking was there, and like a tiny seed that grows into something strong, this belief morphed into obsessive behaviors; the kind of dieting and exercise habits that dominate a woman’s life and threatens their self esteem.
The Dangerous Seed of Magical Thinking
So here it is: If only I could look like THAT…
...then I will finally have THIS.
What is THIS? It’s whatever you long for deep down, a dream partner, the perfect job, self worth and confidence, admiration of others, a fantastic social life, happiness. You fill it in.
Now read these words again: If only I could look like THAT, than I will finally have THIS.
Do you know someone who thinks this way? Because this powerful mind-set which literally connects one’s physical appearance with some magical results have torpedoed many lives, has caused women years of discontent with their body shape, their weight, or face, and has led women to literally postpone their lives until they finally achieve THAT look.
The problem with this kind of magical thinking?
Let me use the words of a former bulimic patient of mine who had figured it out,
She was worried about the insurance coverage for her treatment and she asked, “Don’t they understand? This isn’t just about my weight. Because I’ve been at my dream weight and it doesn’t matter if I weigh 145 pounds or 95 pounds, nothing changes. I still feel bad, down deep. This is about my self-worth.”
Of course, eating disorders are complex conditions, and when they occur, it’s because of several factors that include genetics, family dynamics, personality traits and cultural influences. The discussion of eating disorders is for another time, but the message here is:
If you make your physical attractiveness the central road to your self esteem and your identity, you’re headed for a dead-end. Here’s why:
Two reasons to stop over-focusing on our looks:
1. The more we obsess about our looks and pour endless hours into our quest to look THAT way, the less time we have to develop our inner self; the place where real substance is. Our lives are seriously out-of- whack when we’re totally fixated on our looks, and we’re not developing the qualities that make us a whole person. And this happens when we work on the parts of ourselves that we can’t see on the surface.
A healthy identity begins by knowing how we feel inside. Real self-esteem happens when we can experience a whole range of emotions, not just the “happy” feelings. And there’s nothing that says “I deserve to be treated well,” than when we’re expressing our emotional needs clearly with others; without guilt and worry. And if you’re a constant people pleaser? It’s never too late to work on developing your inner life; because true confidence results from having your own ideas and opinions, ones that might be very different from those closest to you.
2. Looks are transitory. They never last. Getting all our self-worth from our outer appearance is like putting down all our money on a single bet at the blackjack table. It’s a gamble that offers an immediate “high” but inevitably results in an unhappy ending.
It’s not easy keeping a Healthy Perspective in a Crazy, Looks-Obsessed Culture
Again, it’s true. There’s no one cause of eating disorders, but our common sense tells us that there is a slow drip effect on our self image that occurs from living in a crazy, looks-obsessed culture. And the most vulnerable minds are the young ones! We should care about the answers to these questions:
- What happens to our own self image, when the photos that we see daily, are of celebrities that have been digitally manipulated to look winkle-free and perfect?
- What happens to little girls who grow up seeing beauty ads with skin that doesn’t have ONE- single- flaw?
- What happens when impressionable teenagers thumb through fashion magazines for years without seeing signs of cellulite, and are never told about the powerful effects of Photoshop on the pictures they’re seeing?
The other day, while sitting here writing on this blog post, I happened to hear this fact on the Today’s Show segment, Real Mom’s Secrets:
44 percent of moms would rather be 15 pounds thinner than add 15 points to their child’s IQ.
And ABC News recently reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat, whatever fat means at that age. Wow.
In Lisa Bloom’s, book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, she reports that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly and that 25 percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize.
These aren’t females with clinical problems that we’re talking about. These are typical females of all ages, who are experiencing the effects of our culture’s crazy, distorted preoccupation with the female body.
What Should You Do?
- Be an educated consumer about this subject. You owe it to yourself and your daughter.
- Talk to your daughter about this blog post. Depending on her age, you might discuss articles like THIS. Discuss her views about Perfection. Does she feel pressured to look a certain way?. Ask her what she thinks about Kate Winslet’s reaction to the GQ magazine cover. Be age appropriate and remember not to judge. Listen, don’t lecture so that trust develops.
- And the next time you’re purchasing your expensive eye cream or latest lipstick color, ask yourself this ONE important question:
Do I want to look like THAT model’s face, or do I want to look like the very best version of MYSELF—the self- confident, vibrant, intelligent and beautiful person that I feel like?
Your answer says it all. Because you are SO much more than your looks.