Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Smaller Size Is Not A Prize

Shopping: you love it and you hate it. It can be enjoyable and maddening, fun and disastrous, happy and sad.

Much of these conflicting emotions stem from the toss-up of finding the perfect dress versus trying on pair of jeans after pair of jeans, none of which fit the way you want them to.

Often, it seems as though stores are telling us that, no matter what, our bodies are not “right.” We’re too skinny, too fat, our hips are too big, our butts are too flat, our stomach is too round, our thighs are too wide, etc. We inevitably try to make our bodies fit the clothes, instead of making our clothes fit our bodies. Needless to say, it can get extremely frustrating. It takes all the joy out of shopping for yourself. It can make you feel negatively about yourself. It reiterates again and again that your body is somehow not the way it should be.

Then there are the numbers. More numbers, like the numbers on a scale, dictating your mood: clothing sizes.

For one, they always seem to be getting smaller in stores, don’t they? You can wear a 5 in one store, but in another, where all the clothes seem so small, a 5 doesn’t come close to fitting. You’re forced to but something a couple sizes up and you feel horrible. Why? If it looks good, then why? Because that number has come to mean something to you. The numbers have come to signify something. If they go up, you’re too fat and if they go down, you’re doing well and looking better.

This is your first mistake. You’re giving these numbers—these clothing sizes, for God’s sake—a lot of power. And they mean nothing. It’s about how you feel in the clothes you buy that should matter. If the pair of pants you want to buy had a tag 3 sizes smaller, and you love the way they look on you—then you’d still love the way they look if that tag has a larger size printed on it. It’s just your mind trying to tell you differently. Trying to make you feel ugly, fat, and inadequate.

My suggestion—if you’re strong enough—is to cut the tags out of the clothes you buy. That way, you’ve used them for what they’re really for—to help determine what fits you in the store—and when you get home, you don’t need those damn tags anymore. I can hear what you’re thinking…you’re thinking that you do.

Well, you don’t.

You don’t need them to reference yourself. You don’t need them to tell you how to feel when you put them on. Look at the clothes for what they are—for what you like about them—not their sizes.

If you’re like me, the clothes in your closet are probably a few different sizes. Sizes vary by store or by material or by article of clothing (like your dress size not being your pants size). So who cares if you have all the tags cut out of your clothes? You’re not going to go out, sit on the bus, and have the person next to you ask, “Oh what size are your pants?”

If they comment on your pants, they’re more likely to say, “I really like your pants,” or “Where did you get those?”

Think about it.

And when you want to or need to go shopping again, you just try on clothes and see what fits without worrying about if you wore an 8 in the same store the last time you were in it. You pick a pair of pants that looks like it might fit and go from there if it doesn’t, trying on ones smaller or larger until you find a par that does. If your clothes at home don’t have the tags, you won’t be going into the store looking for a certain size and feeling terrible if it doesn’t fit the way you think it should. It’s just trial and error now, babe. You find the clothes to fit your body instead of thinking your body should fit into a size you’ve chosen in your head or have seen in your closet.
I know cutting the tags out of your clothes can seem pretty extreme. And maybe it is. But sometimes the extreme is necessary to get us to change our thinking, to get our heads back where they should be. After all, isn’t starving to fit into a particular size pretty extreme? Isn’t crying in a fitting room stall when a size—a number that means nothing—doesn’t fit pretty extreme? You get the next size, you try it on, and if you like the way it looks, you buy it. Don’t give over your power. Then you go home and cut the tags out until your bran can thinking for itself again.

It’s hard to do—to take the scissors to your clothes and cut out the part of them that matters the least. Doesn’t sound like it should be difficult, but it is. But you know, once you do it, there’s no turning back. The numbers will be gone and there’s no putting them back. And maybe you can breathe a little easier…and look at your clothes for what they are—a piece of your style.

Cutting out the tags is similar to getting weighed backwards at the doctor’s office. If you know the number on the scale holds too much weight (no pun intended) in your mind, you’re giving it too much power. Weigh yourself backwards. It’s kind of weird, but nurses and doctors are more used to this request then you might think. Don’t let that number dictate your mood and your well-being.

But it’s hard to do. To be strong enough to turn around, step on a scale, and step off without knowing what number showed up. You think—you’ll be dying to know. You’ll be curious. Well, of course.

Fight it.

It takes a lot of strength. To cut out the tags, to weigh yourself backwards, to let those numbers NOT matter.

But you can do it. You can take that power back. And you’re the only one who can. And when you’re in a better place, those numbers won’t matter so much anymore. And you can look at them again without handing over your power.

Your power is a prize.

Not your size.

1 comment:

"Julia" said...

I hate numbers. I'm a mathematical mind, a logical person. I recognise that there are underlying emotional issues, but more and more, numbers have come to drive my eating problems.
I can completely relate to this post.
It brings to mind a comic I once saw in a newspaper, entitled something along the lines of 'The difference between men and women'.
On one side was a woman holding up a pair of pants, thinking 'I hope I fit into these.' On the other was a man holding up a pair of pants, thinking 'I hope these fit me.'
Things may not necessarily be drawn that way purely by gender, but it is this kind of thinking, taught to us by our parents and peers, that feeds E.D.s.
Thank you for your blog.