You can’t turn on the radio these days without hearing a song by Adele. If you tuned into the Grammy’s a few weeks ago, you couldn’t miss her six-Grammy win or her much anticipated vocal performance. And yet, about a week before the Grammys Adele’s name was all over Entertainment News for another reason, Chanel head designer Karl Lagerfeld called her “a little too fat.” He has since apologized for his comment, but I mention this situation for several reasons. Mr. Lagerfeld’s comment obviously represents a mentality in the fashion world, one that is often presented in magazines, clothing, and images presented to us on a regular basis. This time however, it was not a magazine to “buy” or “not buy”; it was a comment to “buy into”, or “not buy into.” Guess what? An overwhelming response came through the media filled with the people’s reactions; we did NOT buy into this thinking and comment! People were outraged at Mr. Lagerfeld’s comment and apparent insistence to view Adele with a one dimensional lens. Reactions included appreciation for Adele, who she is as a performer (uber-talented) and acceptance for her appearance and size. This is a proud moment!
Even more remarkable about this whole situation was Adele’s reaction. Un-phased. As she put it, “I haven’t felt insecure about my figure. I wasn’t brought up like that………I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that,” she told People magazine in an interview. I don’t know about you, but now I am not only enamored by her musical talent, but by her positive body image and wonderful exemplification of what it is like to be comfortable in your own skin.
While you might not encounter a message so specific and publicized as a designer calling you fat in national news, you probably encounter specific jabs at your own body image from time to time …a look or comment from a family member or classmate…and more certainly you encounter public jabs on the newsstand or internet that seem to both target and open fire all at the same time on anything body image related…”too fat”…”too skinny”…”baby bump alert”…”did this person have plastic surgery?” This can pose quite a challenge to maintaining a positive body image for oneself. So, how do you “channel your inner Adele” and be at peace with your own body? Be unaffected by external negative influences? I think to Adele’s comment that she “wasn’t brought up like that.” It tells me that the messages she received growing up did not focus on weight or only one body type as being acceptable. It suggests that a deeper value for herself as a person and a sense of feeling proud of that person on all levels including ones’ body image were part of this atmosphere. If you have kids, this is a great message to think about sharing in their upbringing.
As an adult, you may or may not have had these types of messages imparted on you, but either way, it is up to YOU now. These days it not only takes being “comfortable in your own skin”, so to speak, but having “thick skin” as well, to endure all the external messages that can impact our positive body image. You can begin to do this for yourself by becoming aware of any negative things that you or others say to yourself. Much like a tiny hole in a balloon that eventually causes the balloon to deflate, with awareness you can slowly deflate negative thoughts by acknowledging them as negative or harmful and then either substituting them with something more positive, or simply dismissing them…Not giving them any think time, and definitely not any time to deeply affect you. As you begin to remove the negativity, you make room for more positive thoughts and become more aware of positive images, comments and ways to perceive yourself. These, you DO pay attention to, and DO hold onto, replay them if needed to help build that positive body image. This might sound both too simplistic and yet very hard all at the same time. Believe it or not, it’s neither. Our ability to stay positive about our self and our body image comes largely from the messages we tell our self, and the way we perceive messages from others/the media. When we begin to alter this for the better, positive change occurs.
Though it takes some practice, it’s easier than it sounds. Finding a role model who seems to exemplify a positive body image can be really helpful as well. Not sure how comfortable you feel in this shirt today? Uncertain how to respond to a classmate’s comment about “who really shouldn’t wear jeggings”? Hummm, what would Adele say?
By Dr. Sherri Theoharidis, UMKC Counseling Center