Last week, Glamour magazine reported some rather ugly survey results: 40 percent of women reported being unhappy with their bodies. And 71 percent of women said they feel fat, even though only 46 are technically overweight.
The executive editor of the magazine attributes the stats to the fact that there's a lot of "body snarking" going on now. (Hmm, perhaps like the horrendous display of fat-hating recently shown by Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly?)
While that's definitely, sadly the truth, there's something else at the root of the body dysmorphia epidemic ...
As it turns out, the female brain is actually "wired" to focus on the negative. I recently learned this from the oh-so-wise self-compassion guru, Kristin Neff, Ph.D. And no, it's not because we're all Debbie Downers. It's because back when we were first evolving as human beings, we were keenly focused on guarding our children. Our brains became acutely tuned into tracking anything potentially dangerous, suspicious or unsavory. Over time, this tendency has become more problematic than it is helpful in many ways. For instance, instead of being tuned into a possible, say, bear attack, we're looking in the mirror and scrutinizing what we perceive to be the effects of an, err, red velvet cupcake attack.
The main defense against our own mental beat-downs? Self-compassion. Sadly, Neff says, women have an especially difficult time practicing it, mostly because of that whole negative focus thing. It's a vicious cycle: By zeroing in on the negative, we're innately self-critical. Self-criticism leads to judging ourselves for every little mistake or flaw. In the meantime, we're struggling to realize that no one really looks like Jen Aniston. Eesh! And, of course, it doesn't help that we have to simultaneously block out the opinions of nasty, self-loathing ladies like Maura Kelly, who are really just projecting their own fears and negativity onto others. With all these factors working against us, it's no wonder we're hating on our bodies and calling ourselves fat, even if we aren't.
Well, if you're interested in putting the kibosh on the Negative Nancy behavior once and for all, you can. Start being kinder to yourself, give yourself a break for that gym membership or skinny jeans fail, realize that we're all in this together and surrounded by crazy "body snarking" pollution, and for the love of Melissa McCarthy, start loving yourself more for who you are and not how you look! If we could commit to that, I bet Glamour would actually have positive news to report on.
What do you do to love your body a little more?
Image via suez92/Flickr