the conversation

yesterday i read this article by ashley judd (please, take just a minute to read it if you haven’t already). it really struck a chord with me and then later in the day i stumbled across this pin, which reminded me of a comment thread i’d read on this pin

as someone who has weighed 35 lbs more than i do now, who gains and loses the same 5 lbs at least three times over the course of every year, who very clearly struggles with body image and weight, this hit home. first, i was appalled by the language and criticism these people put on ashley and the girls in those pins. but then, in reflection, i realized that i have done the same thing- not in the same manner, but equally poisonous. i have definitely speculated about celebrities having work done, made a mental note of an acquaintance who put on some weight, at times felt more pride when i am complimented for my looks than when i’m complimented for my talent.  this is all hard to admit, and not something i do lightlly.

i’m critical of myself on a daily basis. there’s not a time that i look in the mirror that the running voice in my head (i have MAJOR monkey mind) doesn’t nag me about my skin, my arms, my thighs, (i am currently a size 2 and almost 5’8″…i know on a rational level that i can’t possibly be FAT, but that’s not what the monkey mind tells me).  my inner voice can be cruel, ruthless, and unforgiving in it’s criticisms of my body.  left unchecked, it can be devastating.

and i finally understand where those people are coming from, the ones who are making all of the comments on pins, in magazines and web sites,or just in their thoughts. it’s what we’ve been trained to do to ourselves and to others, and i think it’s become far too acceptable. the message we send when we aggressively criticize someone else is that none of us is really ok. we are all “too” something…and we need to change that dialogue. fortunately, it’s something that i think can change, and I’m hopeful that it will.

i’m making it my mission to start holding that running voice in my head more accountable. i’m going to challenge the thoughts that pop up in my head: both about myself and about others. i will be attempting to re-train my monkey mind to be more kind, compassionate, accepting and loving to myself and others.  

this was not an easy post to write, i feel vulnerable and like i’ve just exposed a very personal weakness.  but i think that’s important, especially if it will fuel this conversation. thank you so much for reading, for all of your feedback and kindness, it means the world to me.

* the amazing illustration above is by gemma correll and could be made for me, i love it so much.

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Reader Comments

  1. Jessie // Sweet Thing|

    What a beautifully written post Sarah! I like so many have struggled with body image my whole life. So much of my confidence is based on my weight, yet I know I've no real gage of my true size. I can't tell you how many times I've looked through old photos of myself and wished I could be thin like that again. But then I remember that I thought I was fat then too. So will I ever be content? I guess that's the struggle- to find the contentment. By changing the way we see and pick apart others, we are moving towards finding that acceptance in ourseves.
    Group hug! xo

  2. Leigh|

    I don't comment often on posts because for some reason that also makes me feel vulnerable and that I might be picked apart for my words or ideas, but this, this really struck home with me, too. I am often shocked that we are so hard on each other and bully one another for being "too" this or that and I think social media has just accelerated the problem. People seem willing to type things they would not be willing to say, but the impact is just as damaging and the reach can be so much further…Thank you for such a poignant post.

  3. audrey|

    I love this post Sarah and think that it strikes a cord with most of us. thanks for taking such a bold step and sharing. xo

  4. Jessica|

    Well put Sarah and something I know I also need to work on – your post helped to articulate for me what it is I want to do and how I need to take that first step towards change to being kinder not just to others but also myself.

  5. Mike Newton|

    great post Sarah, I wish more people echo'd your honesty and viewpoint here. I have afeeling in the next few years we will all see a huge shift in public opinion on what is attractive and a focus on health vs. appearance

  6. sarah yates|

    thank you so much everyone! and mike, i hope you're right! i would love to see our mental energy shifted from obsessing over how we look to being thoughtful about our actions/mindset/health. let's do it!

  7. Kate|

    My husband and I took a trip to France last year. On our second to last evening in Nice we had dinner at am Italian restaurant. There were two women seated next to us who were speaking a foreign language which I happen to be fluent in. The second we sat down the two women proceeded tearing me to shreds with judgements and assumptions obviously never thinking that theres a chance I might understand them. They were saying very mean things about my weight and all the unhealthy things I must be doing to maintain it (I'm a size 2-4, 5"8, the same, healthy weight I've been my whole life), commenting on my food order (pasta and a salad), that theres no way that man sitting with me is my husband (implying I am a call girl) This continued the entire evening with them having no idea I understood every single word. The final straw came when we finished dinner and they started giggling that it's time for me to run to the bathroom and throw up all the food I just ate. At that point I couldn't control myself and had to say something…they were shocked that I spoke their language but didn't even attempt to apologize, not that I expected them to. I know I'm not supposed to take what other people think of me to heart but hearing what two WOMEN were thinking about me completely uncensored was so hurtful that I had to rush out of the restaurant because I had tears in my eyes. That day I made a promise to myself to NEVER AGAIN be judgemental of another woman whether she be a celebrity or an acquaintance, based on her looks or anything else. As women we should offer each other support and understanding not judgement. Sorry for the rambling comment, but I felt it was appropriate to share, thanks for writing such a thoughtful post :)

  8. Lauren Ashley|

    Sarah, thank you for this post – so many of us struggle with our self image and with that monkey in our minds, some days I feel like I can't get mine to leave me alone! You verbalized so well what I've been thinking / feeling as Ashley's response to the media became public. I'm definitely making an effort to focus my inner voice on the positive aspects I see in myself and in others. xo!

  9. Michel|

    I have been putting off a lifestyle session owed to me from another photographer for years because I'm not the weight I want to be, my teeth aren't white enough, my hair isn't long enough…. the excuses run long. I am just going to do it. book it and love me for right now. thanks for the post sarah. xox

  10. sarah yates|

    thanks ladies!
    kate, your story just broke my heart. thank you SO much for sharing. i'm so glad you spoke up for yourself, those women might not have been apologetic in the moment but i bet anything they went home and felt terrible. hopefully it changed the way they speak about other women! i am inspired by you. thank you again for sharing.

  11. Chelsea Olson|

    Sarah, I am so inspired by your courageous words; to write something that so many are thinking/feeling, but not articulating, takes guts. Thank you for sharing and taking a stand to make a change.

    Your blog as a whole is very uplifting, positive, inspiring and just a daily delight!

    xx, Chelsea

  12. Colleen / Inspired to Share|

    Sarah, thanks for your honesty and vulnerability! We can all relate and I wholeheartedly agree that we need to move away from judgments in our thoughts and towards a positive, encouraging mindset towards ourselves and others. So empowering! xo

  13. iz|

    I think it is quite refreshing to see a blogger that is actually talking about honest and crucial issues like this. As much as I love fashion, cooking and design myself, we don't live in an alternate blog reality where Patriarchy doesn't exist. Kudos to you for sharing your story.

  14. Hayley @ Oat Couture|

    Firstly, that illustration is me to a T! :) Secondly thanks for your honestly, your not alone in having these thoughts. It's so easy to pass even a small amount of judgement on others especially when the person that you are most harsh with is yourself. I know this from personal experience. Like you I have been making a conscious effort not to judge myself or others. Even though I very rarely judge people in a mean way as such, it is still all very damaging to the soul. I think if we could cancel out all judgements, however big or small, the world would be a much happier place, right?! :) Especially us girls! We should be sticking together! :)

  15. Tanya|

    I read it and loved it. It was such a wonderful response; a positive take on a very personal attack. And you have added to this conversation in a wonderful and honest manner. You are not alone my dear! Thanks so much for sharing your response; it's not easy to be vulnerable:)

  16. gemma|

    This is really amazing, Sarah. Your beautifully conveyed honesty is comforting and inspiring at the same time. I feel more like loving myself just the way I am after this post- and picking on myself a lot less. Thank you for writing this.. Takes a brave woman to open up like you did, and your readers get to benefit from your insights!

  17. Erin|

    my dear, as i'm sure you know and will read in comments you are certainly not alone in this struggle. I've spent my entire life beating myself up for any change in my arm, my thighs, my stomach or my hips, restricting this food or that, chastising any indulgence – but I think that if we support one another, not by saying oh, but you're so pretty and so thin and so wonderful (all of which is totally true about you btw) but rather we support one another by saying I understand what you think and feel and how can I help you keep your voice accountable in a way that is validating rather than dismissive. Because when we are united to build on another up it would be so much harder for anyone to tear us down.

  18. Jeannie|

    I recently went on a vacation and was dismayed at the number of morbidly obese children I saw with equally unhealthy-looking parents. While adults can treat their health the way we wish, I can't help judging them critically (this is not politically correct to say, I realize) for the way they are imposing such unhealthy habits on their children. It makes me sad.

  19. sarah yates|

    thank you so much everyone for your thoughts and kind words! @jessie, as nice as it is for me to read that so many of my friends/internet pals are in the same boat, it also breaks my heart. i hope that you'll be able to change that voice inside your head to be reflecting what the world sees- a smart, talented, inspiring, and most definitely beautiful woman.
    yesterday i started my experiment with changing my thoughts- i know you're supposed to look in the mirror and tell yourself that you're beautiful, but i think thanking my body for being healthy and replacing the dark thoughts with positive ones that focus on my health, achievements and talents is the way to go for me. i want to value my beauty least- after all, it's the thing i have the least control of and the thing that won't last forever.
    @erin, i totally agree! i so wish we were closer so we could have a yummy lunch and commiserate over this. i also think that women like yourself who are in the fashion industry have it even harder- i am going to keep posting reminders to us all to keep us grounded on this crazy ride!
    @jeanie, i completely understand your frustration at seeing children who are obese- i too have had judgmental thoughts about those parents. but even though it's coming from a good place of concern for those children, the negativity it produces in us and then in them cannot possibly be helping. let's find a better, more compassionate way to affect change and educate those that need it about the importance of healthy eating. rather than judge, let's try to extend help to our communities in whatever way we can. if the outcome we want is for parents to be more responsible about their children's diet- judging them will never change their actions, but educating them has the potential to. i love what michelle obama is doing with her "let's move" campaign and there are opportunities to get involved should you be so inspired!
    thank you again everyone! this has been one of the most rewarding conversations on this blog and i'm so grateful for your contributions!

  20. Tracy|

    I commend you on writing a post about this topic. I recently had to work on re-training my mind to focus on getting healthy again (I have slacked on working out like I used to for the last couple of years, and it really started affecting my mind set and attitude). Instead of telling myself I need to be skinny and fit into a size 2 again, I told myself I need to focus on eating better and working out more and my body will do what my body will do (because let's face it, I'm not a freshman or sophomore in college anymore). It's hard some days to accept that (thinking of all the clothes I cannot fit into anymore) but I think focusing on being healthy far outweighs any benefit that could come from fitting into those clothes again (I have friends that I fear are starving themselves or malnourising themselves to be skinny again). Thank you for sharing this!

  21. Melissa|

    thanks for this post, sarah! i thought i was the only one with that crazy voice in my head telling me i'm too "something" and thinking negatively about other women only to make myself feel better. let's hope we can all make a change for the better. thanks so much for sharing!