Last month I went to the beach with a friend and, there, on the blanket next to us was a woman—in her early 20s, I’d guess—who most folks in this culture would assess as having a “10” body. Evenly toned and tanned, she also had a pretty face and straight, brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her bathing suit, a shocking neon blue, could probably be seen for miles. She certainly looked as if she had it altogether body-wise. Why, then, did I feel so sad for her?
For all of you who think you’d beg, borrow or steal to have a perfect body, think again. For example, compare this woman to the young women who had set up their chairs and beach umbrellas on the other side of us. They had far from perfect, plump, soft bodies. I don’t recall their bathing suits or their hairstyles or anything else about them, and that’s my point. Because they weren’t aspiring for body perfection or be noticed, they didn’t call attention to their bodies (nor did they seem ashamed of them). On the other hand, I suspect that Ms. “10” was likely worried about what other people thought of her body, needed to be admired for it, or didn’t believe she looked as good as she did. She probably had busted her toned butt to achieve her “10-ness,” but the higher you go, the farther you have to fall. Conversely, the average-looking women next to us appeared not to have to prove anything to themselves or anyone else body-wise.
Having the perfect body can be a plus in this culture, but it has a considerable downside—living in fear of gaining weight, losing the perfection, and not being seen as exceptional. In order to keep compliments coming, you need to keep looking fantastic and focus huge amounts of energy on your exterior. Women (men, too) who are average looking don’t need to siphon off gobs of psychic thrust into their appearance—they look how they look—and have more energy to put into more important things.
I bet I was the only person on the beach who felt sorry for this young woman. I certainly didn’t envy her inspite of how both genders gazed admiringly at her strolling by her blanket. Next time you’re out and about and see someone whom you think is a “10,” instead of feeling sad or disappointed in yourself for not looking like her or him or wishing desperately that you did, think about perfection as a burden, a millstone to be carried around until the inevitable flaws on your body begin to surface due to age, infirmity, or circumstance. Change your beliefs and perceptions about the happy, successful lives of people whose bodies you idealize and you’ll soon change your feelings about your own body and increase your contentment.