As I mentioned the other day I am slightly behind in posting because I spent a long weekend at home, so I am only now getting to share with all of you my reaction to an op-ed that came out in my college newspaper, The Bowdoin Orient, last Friday entitled “The Pretty Game: Objectification, Humiliation and the Liberal Arts.” Another (somewhat more excusable) reason why I chose to wait to publish my response to this article is because I wanted to attend an informal discussion that was held last night, specifically about this piece, by the Bowdoin Women’s Resource Center. The op-ed generated many strong reactions from students and I was intrigued to see what would come out of the discussion. I know this article brought up a lot of stuff for me and truly resonated with my own experiences with disordered eating and I wanted to see if anyone else felt similarly. Ultimately what I got out of this discussion is that many women on campus can relate to the pressures we feel in regard to appeasing “the male gaze,” but also many of us admit to judging, as well as comparing, ourselves to other women, something I am guilty of too . We all, I believe, came out of the meeting with the recognition that we must be kinder to other women as well as to ourselves.
Personally the op-ed forced me to look back on my own experience at Bowdoin and reflect on how “the pretty game” affected, and in a sense, fed my eating disorder. In all honesty, after racking my brain I came up with quite a few experiences I had chosen to “forget” and it became obvious to me that I without a doubt played into the game, and while doing so, intensified my eating disorder. I am the first to admit that I have some serious issues with body dysmorphia and don’t see myself accurately, so as a result of this I heavily rely on other people’s evaluations of my appearance, which is something I am now working against constantly, but it did greatly dominate my life when I first started to lose weight. I especially looked to guys for reassurance about my looks… I evaluated how good a night was based on how many guys wanted to dance with me, chat me up, or hit on me. I vividly remember telling someone when I was leaving a party that my night was complete because some hottie on the lax team told me I was one of the most beautiful girls he’d ever seen…nothing came from that interaction and he most likely was hammered, but for that moment I felt like all the over-exercising and restriction I was doing was working because I was winning “the pretty game.” I myself could not see my “beauty,” something I to this day struggle with, and thus was heavily dependent on the praise I received from others. To me at times I felt worthless so I needed to turn to other people to feel like I mattered.
My inability to see myself accurately, and also the fact that my ED voice was loudly telling me that participating in the “pretty game,” was no longer my choice, but my reality, has affected my whole life. Since my self worth clearly was non existent and I couldn’t even trust my own feelings about myself it was difficult to truly believe others, even those who really had my best interests at heart. The “pretty game” and my eating disorder went hand in hand. I went down this path because I wanted to fit in and feel beautiful and I unfortunately suffered because I went to the extreme. In all reality I never won, I lost big time. I was too busy trying to convince everyone else I was pretty when I should have been trying to teach myself to love me for me. I pushed my physical and mental health to their limits and it was definitely not worth it. I wasn’t happy and I was REALLY sick…how could I possibly radiate beauty if I was miserable? The answer is simple, I couldn’t. The only way I could fix this was to start to fundamentally change how I thought about myself and that is no easy feat, but I really want to give off the best and most positive vibes possible so I have to try.
Now after almost a year of treatment I can finally recognize just how crazy, as well as destructive, the “pretty game” is to all young women out there and not just myself. I am consciously choosing to avoid going down the path of comparisons and negativity. I know personally, I need to focus on seeing myself as a whole complete person whose beauty is so much greater than I’d ever give myself credit for. I hope by sharing my experience and the work I am currently doing to better myself can help others see that what truly matters is not what size pant you wear, or how much attention guys give you when you are out, but how you feel about yourself and your ability to see just how amazing you are as an individual.
Happy Thursday Everyone ❤