Too often I read things that make me sad. This week’s entry: an article on “inner thigh gap” and how the quest to achieve it has taken hold among teenage girls. I’m not surprised. I’ve observed this phenomenon–in which even the tops of the inner thighs do not touch–on runway and magazine models, and I admit I have at times wished my own thighs maybe didn’t touch quite so much. That wasn’t even the depressing part. The thing that really made me sad was this statistic: 80 percent of girls dislike their bodies by the time they are 17 years old.
Fueling this problem are Tumblr and Pinterest, online depositories where girls can share and sort images of perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect makeup, and perfect clothes. If you ever want to be REALLY depressed, search “thinspiration” or “thigh gap” on either site. Some of the results link to workouts or other health-oriented tips, but mostly they serve as online catalogs of all the ways girls feel their bodies fall short. And by seeing how many other girls feel the same way, and receiving messages of support, these messages get reinforced over and over again. If you’ve never been a girl, let me enlighten you: there are literally infinite ways our bodies can be “wrong.” It’s seriously exhausting to keep up. If it weren’t thigh gap, it would be something else.
Thigh gap itself isn’t a bad thing. If that’s how your body was made, then good for you! But for most women, it is pretty much a genetic impossibility. Tonight at yoga I looked around the room and realized that even the thinnest, most fit women generally didn’t have it.
That’s the thing. It’s one thing to want to be thin, to be fit, to be the best possible version of ourselves. It’s another to work and starve ourselves to try to make our bodies into something they were never meant to be. That is what makes me sad. That is what makes me want to do something to let girls know they really are beautiful just as they are, and no one worth their time is going to value them any more highly because they have achieved a thigh gap, or any less because they haven’t.
Body image is a topic I have spent a lot of time thinking, and writing, about. Where is the line between striving to be the best version of myself and accepting who God made me to be? I came across this quote in a Her.meneutics post on modesty and how we can talk about it without falling into body-shaming that changed my whole perspective:
It’s almost a popular thing for girls and women to say really terrible things about themselves…but here’s the cold, hard truth about negative selftalk: When God created you, he said, ‘Very good. Exactly as I need her to be.’ When you say degrading things about yourself, you’re telling God it wasn’t ‘very good’ when he created you. If you say something negative about yourself long enough, you’ll eventually believe the words you’re saying, and that’s how you’ll live. Isn’t that sad to think about?
Whenever I find myself cataloguing faults, or hear someone else doing the same, I remember these words. “Very good.” The only thing I can think to reverse that 80 percent number is to keep repeating them, loudly and often.