Why Do We Even Care About Size?

Why do we compare ourselves? We're *all* "fruit."
Why do we compare ourselves? We're *all* "fruit."

Check out my latest post over at WeAretheRealDeal. You can read it here or after the jump.

Tell me honestly: when you walk in the grocery store, or down the street, have you ever looked at another woman and compared yourself physically to her, if even only in your head?

I think we’d all be lying if we said we’d “never” done that.

The truth is, as women, we tend to compare ourselves to one another, for better or for worse.

We don’t like to admit this because it makes us sound horribly shallow …

But I’d venture to say most–if not all of us–have done it at one time or another.

In fact, right here, right now, I”m fully willing to admit I’ve “sized myself up” at, say, the mall.

It’s not that seeing someone bigger or smaller than me necessarily makes me feel any better or worse about myself; rather, it’s just human nature to have a fleeting thought when someone comes into our vantage point.

When it comes to body size, the comparison is physical.

Which brings me to earlier this week, when I posted “Dressing for Me,” here at WeAretheRealDeal, which raised some really great questions (and awesome, respectful dialogue) about sizing, comparisons, and self-validation.

What I did (however unintentionally) was reference my “happy, comfortable size” and my “don’t-want-to-go-there” size with you … which, in turn, painted a picture of me.

Even though you’ve never met me, it suddenly brought me into your vantage point as though you walked by me in line at Starbucks.

And by disclosing sizes, it allowed readers to compare themselves to me, for better or for worse.

While my reference to sizing didn’t bother some in the least, others genuinely –(and understandably so, I now realize) — felt a little turned off by the numbers, if not alienated.

Of course that wasn’t my intent … but perception is reality and well, I needed to do some damage control.

After listening to all of you in the comments here and responding as best I could, we had a really honest and respectful dialogue that gave me some new insight and perspective into the power of my words.

Then yesterday, I followed up the post with one on my personal blog, Tales of a (Recovering) Disordered Eater, where I talked about my need to be more mindful of body image sensitivities, particularly with our broad readership here at WATRD.

And so today, I’m bringing the dialogue back here, because I think it belongs here — I’m genuinely glad that this conversation began.

The truth is, I know in my heart I was only comparing myself to myself … 10 lbs lighter, and now, 10 lbs heavier. But what happened was that some others compared themselves to me. They let my feelings about my body rub off on them, because, well, it’s human nature to compare ourselves to one another.

I can see now why that happened, but it brings to light the bigger notion of why we even care about size. Why does it make some of us squirm, feel uncomfortable to hear someone’s “goal size” is X? Why should that make us feel better or worse about ourselves?

As one of my readers noted, “I think what makes people react is their own discomfort. Their own frustration with where they are right now. Trying to accept yourself is a lot of work and it’s hard. When you are in that process, it’s easy to be angry with other people for many reasons.”

I think she’s on to something there. I know it might have hit a raw nerve with me a few years ago, myself. The thing is,we internalize a lot about how we feel about our bodies … and then a post like this brings those feelings to the surface — as it should, when you think about it.

These things aren’t talked about often, but there is a time and place. And I believe WeAretheRealDeal is that forum.

All of which begs the question, what difference does the size of our clothes matter if we feel good in what we’re wearing? Since we all know vanity sizing exists and that many of us can wear 2 or 3 sizes easily depending on the store, we know that the tag on the inside of our jeans doesn’t mean much (so long as we feel good in them).

So why does it matter?

And how do we get over the mental hurdle of thinking as society encourages us to think: that anything above a size X is unacceptable?

I say this because media influence aside, we each have our own personal thresholds of where we are most comfortable in our own skin.

I’m 5’5 and a half and built pretty much like a brickhouse. (I’m not insulting myself saying that; it’s the truth and I’ve come to accept how I’m built).

But I can be a leaner brickhouse or a heavier brickhouse depending on my behaviors. And so, naturally, my threshold is not going to be the same as yours, and it shouldn’t be.

Likewise, me saying a size X was my ideal for me (it’s where I was happiest) shouldn’t make anyone feel bad about having, say, a size Y as their goal size.

Yet sometimes it does.

So where do we go from here? How do we look honestly at other women and not compare ourselves to them? How do we receive information (so-and-so weighs X or wears a size Y) without feeling like less of a person ourselves or — even worse — feeling a twinge of relief because we’re “smaller” or “thinner?”

And how do we get past hearing your thin friend moan that she can’t fit into anything and feels “fat” today, without dismissing her feelings as ludicrous? After all, thin people have body image issues, too; they are just seeing the other side of the spectrum.

I hate to say it (and correct me if I’m wrong here) but body image issues seem to be universally part of being a woman. Some just handle them better than others, and we’re here to bring them to light.

I don’t have the answers, but I hope we can explore questions like these together. Only good can come from honest, thought-provoking dialogue.

I believe that we can definitely achieve more side by side, than by standing on opposite sides of the proverbial playground. There’s a nice middle ground to be found here in the blogosphere, and I think we’re chipping away at it with each new post.

I thank you for the opportunity to bring this to the table, and I genuinely look forward to hearing your insight.

Sincerely,
Melissa

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