As a female, it is impossible to escape the constant pressure to conform to societal standard. I mean, unless I'm gonna hibernate under a rock Patrick Star style, I'm going to hear all about the clothes I "should" wear and the body I "should" have. Frankly, it's exhausting!
It has been really neat though, to see the female spirit of determination come out of that. Women are standing up for themselves and we are seeing female CEOs and movements on social media to reinforce healthy, real women. I stumbled across an account last week on Instagram called @womenirl, meaning: Women in Real Life. I love it. I love the way it encourages us to be ourselves- messy hair, thick thighs and blemished faces included. But I've also seen a movement go viral that I'm not so supportive of, one that I didn't mind at first but has increasingly bothered me as I see it online day after day.
You may be familiar with it: "Strong is the new skinny." Uh huh... seems innocent enough, right? But take a closer look at what this popular phrase- and hashtag- is really saying. See, the word "skinny" has the connotation of an unattainable ideal, a lofty goal at the least. It accompanies pictures of emaciated women or those who live life at the gym with their rigorous three hour workouts and hyper-specific calorie regimes. (RELATED: Let's Talk About Eating Disorders)
Now tell me: Why in the world do we want THAT associated with the word "strong?" Strong is NOT the new skinny because "strong" is an inner quality. It might be exemplified in muscular quads or strong arms sometimes, but it is also exemplified in perseverance through tough times and in work-filled days. It stems from a heart attitude that says: "I will not give up and I will not give in."
Determination. That demeanor crosses over into all areas of a woman's life. Yet it's common to see "strong is the new skinny" at the bottom of workout photos and healthy food. Goodness knows we can do a little better than just slap up a photo of the ideal body and #strongisthenewskinny. What about the strength of working a twelve hour work day or in choosing to nourish our bodies? What about the strength of a mother or of a dedicated student? Those have nothing to do with "skinny," and we shouldn't associate them with that frivolous ideal. (RELATED: The Different Types of Eating Disorders)
Strong is NOT the new skinny. Strong is the mom who keeps up with four kids and a part-time job. Strong is the student who studies her butt off to excel in the classroom. Strong recovering from an eating disorder, conquering a fear, falling in love. It's not having a six-pack and it's not looking like a barbie doll. (RELATED: Things That Have Shaped Me).
At the risk of coming across angry, I want to stress that it is sadness, and not judgmental anger, that has motivated this post. See, I look around at so many beautiful women and see such a threat from the enemy in their lives, a threat that says we, as women, must conform to a specific appearance and standard. Being skinny is one of the chief demands, and an extremely unhealthy and stupid one, at that. But replacing it with the physical goal of strength is ignoring the root of the problem.
Your value does not lie in your appearance. Your appearance is only a dim reflection of the true "you." Your strength comes from your heart, your core and it goes far deeper than what a mirror can show. It reaches beyond what any picture can portray or dress size can depict. It extends past stereotypes and hashtags and pounds and muscle mass. So, don't forget this, my beautiful friends:
Strong is NOT the new skinny. Oh yes, you are strong, but your body strength only scratches the surface of the inner strength that burns within you.