What If the Unrealistic Body Image I’m Chasing Is Mine?

Those women in the magazines did a job on my head — after all, I was one of them

Karen Hough
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readJun 11, 2019

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My sordid past, as captured in Oxygen magazine, 2003–2004

TThe media has changed its tune. First they told me I had to be beautiful and fit. Now they tell me I need to build my self-confidence, regain my self-esteem, and separate my self-image from how my body looks. They insist I need to put aside my own self-loathing not only for my own happiness, but also for the sake of my daughters. And here’s the thing: They’re telling people who have terrible self-image it’s their own fault for not feeling good about themselves. They’re not body-shaming, but brain-shaming. It’s the same message, but in a different package. And I’ve struggled with both my body and my brain as long as I can remember.

Let me tell you about me.

I am small and pale and red-haired. Four foot ten and not a curve in sight. In my family, nobody praised me for being pretty. Was that because my parents didn’t think I was, or because they sincerely thought looks didn’t — or shouldn’t — matter? I was expected to do very well in school (I did) and try my hardest at sports (I did). If those were the important things, I guess it was a good lesson; after all, it’s better than thinking I just wasn’t pretty.

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Karen Hough
Human Parts

Writer, editor & blogger ~ Fitness nerd with a BSc. (Hon.) Human Kinetics ~ Owner of aspirational sweatpants ~ https://KarenHoughWrites.com