Leave Your Mark on the World
Iclearly remember my first stretch marks. I was in my early teens when I noticed two thick pink stretch marks on my right hip that extended beyond the waist line of my pants. I remember going to my mother to show them to her. I suppose I must have been feeling insecure and in need of some reassurance. I remember however being presented with a bottle of Bio Oil and instructed to massage it into my stretch marks every day.
Body insecurity and body dissatisfaction.
Given my mother had likely experienced the same body insecurity that she now witnessed in her eldest daughter, I presume her intention was to spare me from developing the ‘flaws’ that later became the object of her own body dissatisfaction. Alone with my newly-discovered flaws and this bottle of oil, imprinted with words such as ‘skin elasticity’ and ‘prevention’, my initial insecurity was catastrophized into full-blown terror, as I was introduced to a woman’s need to control and/ or conceal her body’s imperfections.
Although this memory is recalled easily and vividly (suggesting it was a pivotal time in my formative years), today, my stretchmarks couldn’t be further from my awareness. In fact, I was only reminded of this memory through my participation in a recent interview on the topic by the Daily Telegraph. After sharing my professional opinion on the ‘trend’ of cellulite, stretchmarks and other flaws being posted on social media, I later reflected on my personal experience.
I curiously explored the factors I share with those I sit across from in my office on a daily basis which predispose me to the same insecurities that I help others with. I contemplated the factors which buffer these predisposing factors and allow me to be at peace with my body in a society which discourages me from doing so. Finally, I gave some thought to the response that the 14year old version of myself needed to hear in such a vulnerable time in my life.
If I could go back in time and respond to that insecure young girl, I would envelope her in a warm embrace and tenderly tell her this: “Dear girl, those marks you’ve discovered are called ‘stretchmarks’. They’re a very normal part of growing. In fact, most of your friends who are going through puberty, will also have them. Despite what you’re about to be taught
BE AT PEACE WITH YOUR BODY IN A SOCIETY WHICH DISCOURAGES YOU FROM DOING SO.
by the world, there’s no way of stopping them or getting rid of them, nor is there any reason to. Worrying about such blemishes will not change them, it will only make them a much bigger part of how you define yourself, all the while, distracting you from your true value”.
Now, as a psychologist working in the field of eating disorders and body-image concerns, I encourage other women to do just that:
• to find a purpose beyond their weight on the scales or the reflection in the mirror.
Contrary to what the weight-loss and diet industries will have us believe, we have little control over our appearance. We do however, have control over what we focus on and how we choose to define ourselves.
So, to you as the reader, I challenge you to consider this:
What impact could you have on the world, if you invested the time, effort and resources that you currently waste on your appearance? What a world we could have!
Dr. Kiera Buchanan is a Clinical Psychologist and a Health Psychologist as well as the Director of Centre for Integrative Health; a multi-disciplinary practice aimed at preventing and treating eating disorders, weight concerns and body-image issues. Kiera is also on the Executive Committee of the Qld Eating Disorders Advisory Group and the Australian and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders. Kiera may be contacted via website
THE MARK YOU LEAVE ON THE WORLD IS FAR MORE MEANINGFUL THAN ANY MARK LIFE WILL LEAVE ON YOU.