In her exceptional book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), Brene Brown, Ph.D. shares some alarming statistics. As she explores the role of social-community expectations of appearance on women today, she lays out these facts like a string of firecrackers ready to explode…
- Approximately seven million girls and women suffer from an eating disorder.
- Up to nineteen percent of college-aged women are bulimic.
- Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among females.
- The latest surveys show very young girls are going on diets because they think they are fat and unattractive. In one American survey, 80% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted at least once.
- A research survey found that the single largest group of high school students considering or attempting suicide are girls who feel they are overweight.
- Among women over eighteen looking at themselves in the mirror, research indicates that at least 80% are unhappy with what they see. Many will not even be seeing an accurate reflection; up to 80% of women overestimate their size. Increasing numbers of women with no weight problems or clinical psychological disorders look at themselves in the mirror and see ugliness and fat.
- Since 1997 there has been a 465% increase in the total number of cosmetic procedures. Women had 10.7 million procedures, 90% of the total. The top 5 were: liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck, and facelift. Americans spent just under $12.5 BILLION on cosmetic procedures in 2004.
Take a minute to soak all of that in. Go back and read those facts again, because they are FACTS, not propaganda, not distorted truths. The FACTS say that AT LEAST 80% OF US are unhappy with how we look when we look in the mirror. It starts young, with our 10-year-olds already on diets, and it spirals out of control quickly with our college students prone to anorexia and bulimia. It continues for too long with young adults, mothers and grandmothers still experiencing the effects of body hatred, disordered eating, and relentless self-criticism.
Chances are, you haven’t been spared from these issues. Statistically speaking, you are likely to recognize yourself in one or more of the alarming facts highlighted above. I certainly do.
I’m angry about the years I’ve wasted and watched others waste diverting energy from truly important contributions we could be making to focus instead on the size of our thighs or the roundness of our bellies. I’m tired of every magazine headline on the news stand promising the secret to thinner thighs or a flatter belly or a tighter rear end. I’m frustrated by the ads flooding the internet for diet pills and miracle cleanses and gimmicky exercise equipment. I KNOW we’re smarter than all of this, but I also know that we’re incredibly tempted by it in our desperation to “fix” ourselves once and for all.
I’d like to write more about this over the upcoming weeks and months….we need to break this cycle of madness that is driving our children into this dark hole right with us, and I’ll need your help. But for today, can you do just one thing? Can you listen for that voice of self-criticism that tells you that you’re not enough…and when she speaks, politely ask her to shut up? We have important things to do, and she’s in our way.