If you’re wondering why there are so many shiny-faced, duck-billed, large-and-perky-breasted women around, wonder no more. For men, self-esteem is usually connected with their professional image, but for women, it’s almost completely tied to their appearance and how they think they will appear to men.

Women take what they see in the mass media very seriously, sometimes without even realizing it. Stick-thin models, big-eyed waifs with smooth  skin, full pouty lips, large breasts and certainly no wrinkles–this is the media ideal that women feel compelled to live up to. We internalize the messages so much that some go to extremes to try to fit that mold.

What are they thinking?

Anorexia–starvation, tied to a mistaken belief that we’re too fat, even when skeletal–can kill. And does. Men can have anorexia but it’s much more prevalent in women, and especially young women.  But not just young women. Who hasn’t looked at a photo of Celine Dion and wondered if she were anorexic?

Women who starve themselves down to the bone, literally, don’t see what we see.

Media images are pervasive. Even Dove’s much-vaunted “big girls” campaign on “real beauty” retouched photos of the plus-sized models.

Will I find someone?

If I don’t fit the ideal, will I find I mate? Some women wonder. Because that is often the bottom line.

One of the great things about the TV show Mad Men was that the sexy vixen of the show was quite voluptuous, in that 1950s-Varga girl-hourglass-figure kind of way. A big girl by today’s standard. And there’s no doubt at all that she’s sexy, by anyone’s standard. But that’s not what we usually see.

I have a visceral understanding of this, because I’ve always been what society today calls a big girl. My “normal” size is 12, I’m best at 10 and models that size are considered “plus”. Which is ludicrous. It’s easy for me to swing 20 or more pounds either way, depending on how much exercise I’m getting and what I eat.

You might be surprised

Although many women believe that they won’t be attractive to potential mates if they aren’t thin–especially a male mate, it’s not true: women would be surprised at the number of very fit men who prefer a woman with a more womanly body. In my single days, I went out with a personal trainer (not mine). I was not thin at the time. I dated one of those southern California gladiator-stunt men. An East Bay cop. A Hollywood creative executive. All pretty fit guys. I was NOT THIN.

I like being a bigger girl. I feel I am more in touch with sensuality and with my body than some I know who are constantly self-conscious and trying to stay skinny. And I have never had a problem finding a male mate if I wanted one.

When I admire a woman’s body, myself, that woman is usually curvaceous, not thin.

Look, no question that it’s better to be fit than not. And I do feel better when I’m working out all the time. And look better. (BTW, fat women can be fit. Fat is not always unhealthy, as difficult as that may be to understand.)

But the degree to which self-esteem is tied to body image in women is not healthy.It’s a myth that we have to match some media ideal to live a full life. Fact is, we don’t.

I’m toying with the idea of doing a webinar for bigger girls soon a topic related to this some time this year. Because it’s something I am pretty passionate about.

If you’ve got thoughts about this I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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