People are often a lot harder on themselves than they are on others, perhaps never so much as when it comes to how they look. Recently, The Scene created a body image video with two best friends who read the negative thoughts they have about their own bodies to each other. The tearful exchange portrays just how unnecessarily cruel we can be to ourselves. Why is it so hard to show ourselves the compassion that we can offer so easily to the people we love?
In the video, two best friends, Tiffany and Alyssa, sit down together to talk about body image. Both have negative perceptions of their appearances; Tiffany, a producer, has struggled with body image, while Alyssa, an actress, has had to cope with anorexia. Prior to filming, they wrote down all of the things they dislike about their bodies, and as the video starts, they read them to each other. The comments are brutal: “When you smile, your face looks like a fat middle schooler.” “Shopping with your body type will never be easy.” “The people behind you are staring at the way your fat hangs over your bra.” “You should never get pregnant because your nose is going to spread across your face.” “You won’t be sexy unless you lose 10 more pounds.” “He’s going to leave you for someone skinnier.” “You should be disappointed in the way you look.” Ouch.
This video hits home for me — I’ve had a similar experience, and it can be startling to realize just how much the way you think about yourself differs from how you think about other people. I once attended a workshop in which participants were asked to write down the negative things they tell themselves. I thought it was just a journaling exercise, so I poured out all of the poison I usually feed myself onto the page, blithely filling line after line. And then our teacher asked us to turn to the person next to us and read what we had written aloud. I immediately thought, “Wait, what? I can’t say this stuff this out loud — it’s too mean and horrible.” But I did, and it was mean and horrible, and the words I’d written about myself seemed even harsher coming out of my mouth than they did on paper. It was an eye opening moment. I was shocked by how cruel and judgmental I sounded — about me. It wasn’t simply that I would never say those things to a friend. I realized that I would never think those things in the first place — because I love my friends, and I know that they are good people who are doing their best, and it would never occur to me to put the most negative spin possible on everything they say and do. So why couldn’t I extend that same courtesy to myself?
“Wow, I am hurting myself so much, all the time,” Alyssa says in the video. She and Tiffany are clearly loving, devoted friends, and it pains them to see how the other is hurting. “You just have to now pretend like you’re talking to me,” Tiffany tells Alyssa. And maybe that’s the right strategy — to talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love. Because you should be someone you love, and you deserve the same compassion that you give to others.
Images: YouTube (2)