My Obsession



Asked what occupies my head a great deal of the time , I have to admit it isn’t the dharma or my commitment to my vegan lifestyle, as much as I wish it were. No, it’s more often my physical being and what’s wrong with it. It’s health concerns and the aging process and weighing more vs. looking youthful, slim and enviable. Yes, thank goodness for my practice which gets me onto the meditation cushion two or three times a day, and I do contemplate the Buddha and the Noble Eightfold Path, and I practice Metta (loving kindness meditation) sincerely. But preparing for a vacation, I have been trying on colorful new clothing, as well as the summer things I’ve packed away since last fall, and feeling lumpy and uncomfortable trying to wear the size number I can accept. The reality is that I don’t look good in that number anymore. Acceptance of reality is optional, but denial and delusion are not okay with me.


So what I have been obsessing over of late is how to look my best in two weeks despite midsection weight creep. Happily, having finished a session of meditation, I believe I know now how to handle this. The numbers, whether on the scale, on a tape measure, or on the tag of a garment, have no meaning other than to compare oneself to one’s former self, to one’s fellows, or to one’s ideal. I aspire daily in my Metta practice, “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”  And also, “May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.” So the delusion that I must be thin–approximating an ideal, in order to be acceptable and worthy of my own understanding and love, once I see, can be shed. This is a sexist ideal, an ageist ideal, a socially promoted ideal, and for today I let it go.

What also informed me were experiments where children were shown dolls or cards with images of children of varying complexion from pale to very dark. Whenever shown a pair where one child was light and another dark and asked which child or doll was smarter, nicer, more honest, etc., the child, regardless of his or her race, nearly always chose the lighter-complexioned one.

This got me thinking; if I were shown images of women, thin, slightly overweight and very overweight, and if asked who was smarter, nicer, richer, or more honest, I would probably select the thinner one. How sad. But knowledge is power, and as we learn to know ourselves, we become freed from prejudice, self-denigration, low self-esteem and delusion. May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. And may we all learn to look at all our fellow beings with the eyes of understanding and love. May it be so.

And today, this is my practice.



6 thoughts on “My Obsession

  1. We come in many sizes, many colors, many shapes. Many traditions, many costumes for cultures, many skills and talents. There is no one external ideal, nor should there be. It is most of it superficial, driven by media and salespersons who take advantage of people’s (mostly women, but also men) wish to conform and be accepted and constantly barrage them with needing this or that to qualify for acceptance: less weight, more height, lighter skin, straighter hair, less wrinkles, whiter teeth, bigger lips, smaller waists, higher heels, slimmer thighs, bigger buttocks… It IS most of it sexist, but in the way of controlling women’s perception of their worthiness as depending on something that is by definition almost always inaccessible (the images in the media are photoshopped and the models often sick or too thin or otherwise unhealthy), or passing (no one is wrinkle-less forever, nor should we be, and women’s bodies change over time, with childbirth, with menopause, with seasons …). There is no substance in it but the playing on the weaker points of self-judgment and constant chasing of what cannot be.
    We do not want a world where everyone is similar, we highlight individuality and in the same breath preach uniformity of external size or prettiness. It is impossible and it is fake.
    We are none of us the same. We are each of us unique and our humanity–be it kindness, compassion, intelligence, ability to love, ability to do, willingness to care, successfulness, lovability–is not dependent on anything as superficial as dress sizes (which are by definition classifying and comparative), or tautness of stomach muscles, or less wrinkles, or skin color…
    Yes to practicing self-acceptance and not walking the path of empty judgment!
    Let it be so!

  2. This a a wonderful reminder to get out of the illusion and into love and acceptance! I absolutely struggle with this and am surrounded by women who remind me that thin and beautiful is the only way to be accepted! Ughh its so hard to be a woman sometimes and with beautiful daughters I have worked hard to break this cycle of belief in me so they too can be free to be exactly as they are.

  3. Thank you so much for your comment, Karen. We struggle so intensely with feeling okay enough about ourselves as women and our girls are subject to great peer and media pressure to meet the ideal. The fact that you have the insight you do is so wonderful and bodes better for them. Our mothers passed their values and beliefs on to us both verbally and behaviorally, and we cannot help but do the same.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting on a post I wrote 9 years ago. In approving your comment I reread the post. Fascinating for me! So much changed in my life after that. So much.

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