Well hello! I’m still here, still alive (I know fat haters, you had me pegged as dying by the time I was 40!) and still keeping up with the fatosphere. I know, I’m not writing as often as I used to – I have to focus on the boring stuff of life so much more these days, like working and paying the bills, there’s not as much time and energy to spend writing, which really bums me out. But I am here, and I do continue to share a lot of stuff on my Facebook page.
Today I want to share some wisdom with you all. Triggered by a couple of things really, I want to talk to all the women out there about self esteem and how you view/treat other women. I’m currently reading a thesis I recently participated in (Tayla Hancock: Life in This Fat Body) and am hearing some of the other participants stories of how they feel in comparison to other women. The other trigger is the almost constant surveillance I receive other women in public. I’m sure many of you have experienced it, being out in public when you notice a woman look you up and down (the old body check), focus on something about you (for me it’s usually my rather prodigious belly!) and then you see the expression of superiority and disdain travel across their face. You know the look. “Well, at least I’m not THAT fat/don’t have a big belly/fat arms/big butt etc/am prettier than her.”
I recently even had someone admit on my Facebook page that even though they’re a fat woman themselves, they find themselves looking at other women and thinking those very things. My answer to her was “Don’t think that those women don’t know you’re doing that. Because we do.”
I want to let you in on a little secret. Judging other women will not fix your bad self esteem.
It won’t. It might make you feel superior for a few minutes, but the minute you see another woman who you think is prettier/thinner/better than you, then your self esteem is going to crumble all over again.
For those of you who are subjected to the judgement of women needing to feel superior to you, take heart, their perception of superiority to you is no real reflection on your value. Their critique means nothing.
Let’s face it – we women are taught from birth that our appearance is the most important thing about us and that life for women is a competition with each other. To get the “best” man, “best” job, “best” home, “best” family etc we must be “better” than other women. So it’s only understandable that we grow up to engage in those really crappy behaviours towards each other. The reason that we do this, isn’t because we’re women, but because women are taught by our culture that we’re SUPPOSED to do this. After all, how often do you see that in popular culture – the trope that women have to compete over a guy, or something else. We’re not allowed to compete for things like sport or skill, as that would be “unlady-like”, but if we want the thing that’s held up to us as the ultimate goal for women – the attention of men, then we’re expected to fight tooth and claw for it. It’s a false value system. The truth is, the attention of men is of low value and all too abundant. You really don’t have to compete with other women to get it, if that’s what you want.
That said, because it’s deeply ingrained and we’re taught by society that it’s how we’re supposed to behave, doesn’t make it OK. Before we look at any benefits to ourselves, we need to be asking “Is this the right way to be treating other women? Would I like to be treated this way?” I’m pretty sure for most of us, the answer is a very firm no.
There is no competition. By competing with other women, you instantly lose. Every. Single. Time.
The way to make things better for yourself is not by pushing others down, but by recognising that we all have value and that womanhood is not a zero sum game. The more we see value in women in general, the more we can recognise our own value. Besides, beauty is false social economy as it does not belong to you – it’s fake currency metered out by our culture – society can and does revoke it in a heartbeat, taking a woman from valuable to not in moments.
There are some really important facts for us to understand when it comes to our value as human beings, and to put us firmly on the path to building better self esteem.
Firstly, other women’s appearance, bodies, lives and success have absolutely no relevance to your value as a woman. Womanhood and your value as a person is not a competition, and other women being successful or prettier or thinner than you does not make them superior to you as a human being. Your value is something intrinsically tied to YOU, not to other people in relation to you. There is no rank when it comes to womanhood. There’s no real hierarchy of women. Sure, a lot of men and society in general would love us to believe that we can be ranked and rated and should be devoting our lives to moving up that hierarchy, but it’s false. If we are convinced to believe that, then we’re expected to compete for male attention and buy products to make ourselves “better/more worthy”.
Secondly, there will always, be someone thinner, prettier, sexier, better dressed etc than all of us. Well, except perhaps Beyoncé. But I can guarantee you, the most gorgeous woman you can think of still sees other women and thinks “I wish my [body part] were more like hers.” So no matter how much superiority you build up when judging another women, it’s ALWAYS going to come crashing down when you encounter one that you decide has something better than yours.
Self esteem is built by learning your own worth, not measuring other people’s. Seriously, the most important lesson I have ever learnt in building my self esteem is that by not judging other women, I actually stopped judging myself so harshly. When I stopped judging other women for what they wear, how they look, the size and shape of their bodies, how they live their lives, suddenly I realised that I felt better about myself. When you stop playing that constant comparison game, your energy is focused on so many other things and you stop being so critical of yourself. When you are not constantly looking for someone to be better than, you also stop finding people you feel are better than you.
Finally, I think the most important thing to realise is that women are awesome. We are. When you learn to value other women for more than just how small their arse is or how clear their skin is, you realise that being part of womanhood is so richly rewarding. Making friends with other women and valuing other women teaches you to value and be kind to yourself. Once you start changing your thinking, it becomes self-perpetuating. The more you question your attitudes towards other women and change that judgemental thinking, the better you feel about yourself, and then the better you feel about yourself, the less you feel the need to cast judgement on others.
It isn’t an overnight thing and is a learning process. But the more you practice it, the stronger your own self esteem will get. But I can tell you now after years of working on it, no amount of sneers at my big belly or fat arms diminishes my value as a woman.
So, the next time you find yourself looking at another woman and thinking “My ***** is better/thinner/prettier than hers.”, ask yourself why it matters. Ask yourself how you’d feel if she was doing that to you. And realise that so what if you’ve got a smaller arse than her or whatever. That reflects only on you, not on her.
Or if you’re like me, and are one of the women who insecure others LOVE to treat with disdain, to use as their yardstick for their own worth, I want you to do something for me. Next time you notice it happening, put your shoulders back. Hold your head up and look that woman in the face and remember that she’s doing it because SHE feels worth less, not because you are worth less. Don’t give anyone that sense of superiority. Smile at her, and walk away, rocking your badass, awesome self just as you are.