A couple of months ago, Jezebel posted an article detailing the narcissism of modern women. While this article is, to some extent, tongue-in-cheek, it also addresses a very real concern: our bodies have changed considerably in the last 50 years, causing the way we view and express ourselves to change, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. It works the other way around, too: the way we view ourselves has changed, causing our bodies to change along with our new-found confidence.
One of the biggest contradictions I come across as a health writer is the body image vs. obesity epidemic issue. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that women are embracing their bodies and I strongly support the importance of feeling comfortable with who we are. On the other hand, we most certainly should not lie to ourselves: if we struggle with obesity or are at risk for health problems related to being overweight and out of shape, then we should be working towards doing something about those issues.
The modern woman is taught to be proud of her achievements, to hold her head up with confidence and praise herself instead of depending on praise from someone else. The modern woman is taught that she is incredibly important and that no one has any right to judge. The modern woman is taught to worship her body and to not change for anyone or anything.
This is all very well as a guideline to follow for boosting self esteem and to live an independent lifestyle. However, too often we misinterpret what exactly all of that means… and too often there are conflicting messages at work. This is where the modern woman runs into difficulties.
Being proud of your achievements does not mean being proud of eating yourself silly every night and lying to yourself by chalking it up to a “once in a while” indulgence. Being proud of your achievements does mean being proud of incorporating healthier choices into your everyday lifestyle and enjoying a treat every once in a while when it really is “every once in a while.”
We definitely should praise ourselves—when we have done something worth praising. No one has any right to judge us—but we all have a responsibility to live our lives as healthfully as we can and to set a good example for others (AND ourselves!). We certainly ought to love our bodies—but also acknowledge that no one is perfect, that there is always room for improvement, and that we can protect our health by making small changes.
The language that we use to describe ourselves can drastically alter the way we perceive ourselves. Using negative language is not the answer, but being honest with ourselves can go a long way to protecting our health. Combining constructive criticism with a positive attitude when we address our potential personal health problems as individuals is an ideal mix to use language to our advantage: the modern woman really can have it all.