Who Wears It Better

JPK SAFIT BLOG

Julie Payne – Kirchmeier serves as Assistant Vice President for Student Auxiliary Services at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Here she is responsible for the leadership of auxiliary enterprises within the Division of Student Affairs, including Residential Services (Housing, Residential Life, Conference Planning, Academic Initiatives), Residential Dining and Retail, Safe Ride, Norris University Center, Greek housing, and Student Affairs Information Technology.

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Today I saw this picture of an obviously-pregnant Kim Kardashian on-line with the caption of “Who Wore It Better?”:

kim-kardashian-vs-killer-whale-who-wore-it-better

My reaction to this photo was immediate.  I was horrified, angry and severely disappointed by the people who chose (and continue to choose) to post the photo, make the comparison, create additional memes and perpetuate such unkindness.  This is nothing short of cruelty — period — and should be stopped. Understand, I am no fan of Kim Kardashian.  Her victim playing and manipulation of others simply leaves me cold (yes – I have been sucked into one or two episodes of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians” and “Kourtney & Kim take Miami”).  Her general behavior is cruel, and as Madeline Albright said “There is a special place in Hell for women who do not help other women.”

When I saw the photo above, I found myself getting very angry, so much so that it surprised me. I began to wonder why.  As I unpacked this, I started to reflect on situations I had experienced in my life that triggered a similar response.

And they all came back to body image.

I come from a family that has many members with life-long weight struggles, and still others who not only had no issues with maintaining a healthy weight but that were quick to judge those for whom weight management was a challenge.  I grew up in an environment that both understood weight struggles, and simultaneously berated those for whom they deemed “lazy” and “weak”.  On more than one occasion I was told as a high school athlete that I was “too thin” and then not two days later, that I needed to take “a few less trips to Burger King”.

As you can imagine, I developed a significant amount of shame associated with my body image.  Even writing about it now is causing me some anxiety.  I developed coping mechanisms that would swing to the extremes – from stress and emotional eating, to insanely dangerous workout regimens (sometimes 2-3 times a day).  I recall a time period in high school when I decided that eating 800 calories a day (as a basketball athlete) was a good idea.  At each turn, I was simultaneously praised and chastised for my appearance, which simply fed into this dangerous cycle of shame and self-loathing.  As you can imagine, this stress would manifest itself in many ways, from emotional outbursts to actual physical self-harm.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I finally decided to do something to try and stop this.  I sought counseling, educated myself on proper diet, nutrition and exercise, and began to make choices for wellness, not appearance.  I began acting the rhetoric about making healthy choices at every step, and not beating myself up for having a glass of wine, a piece of chocolate, or for taking a day off from my workout routine.  I practiced forgiveness for myself and for those who had unknowingly impacted my self-image.  And most importantly, I have finally reached out to and connected with others who hold this same philosophy — wellness is the goal, appearance is meaningless.  This #safit community has been an amazing source of support, inspiration, advice and celebration for me.

The outcomes I have experienced have been tremendous.  I am in excellent health – and I get stronger every day.  I have a community that supports and encourages my choices, and I do the same in return.  Do I backslide sometimes?  Absolutely.  Can I now identify my triggers and try and both avoid and cope with them?  You bet.  Will I ever be past this — maybe, but maybe not.  What matters is that I work on it — every day — for no one else but me.

So, back to Kim — I’m not asking you to like her, or appreciate her, or even to give two cents for what she thinks.  What I am asking people to remember is that she is a human being, and one with struggles, faults and pain that you do not see.

“Recognize that everyone suffers in their own life, even if you think they’ve got it easy.” – Wendy Keller

You never know what people experience – so consider this before your next meme or status share.  It’s more important than you think.

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