Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You Are Beautiful, Just the Way You Are

Something that has always bothered me is how much we focus on weight as a social standard in our society. This is especially true for women. To be considered "beautiful", "successful", or "desirable", we must look a certain way or be a certain weight.

This morning I read a story about a blogger bashing an NBA cheerleader regarding her weight. The worst part of this story is the passing of judgment that is the norm in today's world. The other bad thing is that this judgment is thinly veiled in backhanded compliments, which is really just cattiness, not compliments. It's not just the blogger or the story that bothers me. It's the deeply entrenched values that seem to rule us, run our lives, and govern our society.

Judgment is a tool to drag others down and inflate our self above our brothers and sisters in this walk we call life. It is meant to manipulate, to injure, and to pad our own self-esteem. It brings down another's spirit, even going as far as to negatively change their view of themselves. Additionally, it gives the one passing judgment a falsely righteous sense of self, and falsely empowers one to believe they are "better" than another.

Dangerous doesn't even begin to describe this practice of judging our peers. It holds great power over our lives and our self-worth. By passing these quick judgments, we also avoid going beyond the surface and creating meaningful relationships. We rob ourselves of the opportunity to improve our lives, we sow unhappiness, and we reap discontent.

Cattiness is part and parcel of judgment. It is the "zinger", or the stab at someone that delivers whatever judgment we have made. Oftentimes, it's cloaked in a "compliment" (that really is NOT a compliment), or delivered in a way to make us feel like we're not directly insulting a person. It's underhanded and devious.

There are a multitude of body shapes and sizes, as well as a multitude of reasons why a person may have those body shapes and sizes. It has been studied in depth and proven that genetics do play a role in this, although it's not completely known exactly what role. Medical conditions play a huge role in affecting body shape and size, and actually make it more difficult to change that. I personally have friends and family that struggle with diabetes, chronic pain, thyroid disorders and depression. All of these and many more have a significant impact on weight. Why would I take it upon myself to make a surface judgment about someone? I don't know that person or what is going on in their life, so it's not my place to judge. It IS my place to offer a smile and a bit of encouragement.

The effects of judgment, cattiness and negativity are astounding. No, I haven't conducted any scientific studies or done in depth research. But what I have done is observe these effects in my own life and the lives of others. The hurt and rejection have a cascading effect, going from the lowering of self-worth all the way down to depression and suicidal thoughts. (No, I personally am neither depressed nor contemplating suicide. Just a disclaimer.) That kind of power should never be used against another person. But it is, every day.

I don't know about you, but I know that I want to change this. I'll even go so far as to say that we have a responsibility to change this. But how? We change the conversation! To remedy this culture, a culture of judgment, cattiness, and focus on weight as a social standard, we MUST change how we speak and how we behave.

We need to begin to treat each other with compassion. It should not matter a person's body shape or size. We ought to show love and kindness to our brothers and sisters in life, in all things. We should be offering encouragement, and showing that no matter what, YOU MATTER.

To change the conversation regarding body shape and size, we need to start talking about being healthy, not getting "skinny". Being healthy, in body and mind, is of much greater importance than being "skinny". I know from my own experience that when you are healthy, you are happy; and when you are happy, your world no longer revolves around your shape or size. "Skinny" is a very relative term, and I've always believed that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. When you are healthy and happy, you love yourself more and you lose those negative thoughts about yourself.

We need to change our SELVES! We need to release ourselves from the power of judgment. From now on, the judgment of others no longer carries any weight in our minds. From now on, we will offer only compassion, love and encouragement to our peers. We are changed!

Let me close by saying to all of you out there, whoever you may be, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING AND PERFECT, just the way you are.