I used to have this vision of myself at some point in my 20s where I would finally get that "cover girl body." I'd finally get food and fitness in perfect equilibrium and I would be tiny and ripped like a Barbie GI Joe doll.
Whenever it seemed like my schedule would allow it, I'd start planning for my dream body makeover lifestyle. Planning my dream body dinners and my super intense 5-6 days per week workout plan all seemed like fun parts of my "goal-setting" fantasy.
If I was a REALLLY good bear, I would stick to my grueling "dream body" workout "lifestyle change" for about 2 weeks. Then one day, I would eat a hamburger, have a social life, and skip a workout.
Just like that, dream body Noel evaporated into thin air.
As you might guess, I was generally pretty good at "slipping up." In reality, my dream body was impossible to achieve.
At face value, that sounds pretty awesome: achieving the unachievable. After all, one of my favorite childhood movies, Thumbelina, taught me that "you're sure to do impossible things if you follow your heart."
Cheesy as it may be, I want to "trust the swallow" on this one. There's a lot of impossible things that I want: a fulfilling career, a family, a life I love, a beach house that doesn't get destroyed by hurricanes.
How much of my heart really cares about dream girl body makeover lifestyle change? Is that really following my heart?
Instead of continuing to attempt the impossible, what if you changed your dream body by changing your dream?
What if instead of your dream body looking a certain way, it does certain things, thinks certain things, takes care of certain things, or changes the world? #changeyourdreambody
To be clear I'm not talking about giving up on your dreams. I'm talking about questioning why you have this cover girl dream body ideal in the first place. For a lot of women, this goal is part and parcel of what "success" means.
This is where the feminism comes in and honestly I think Beyoncé and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie say it best:
We teach girls to shrink themselves
To make themselves smaller
We say to girls,
'You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful
Otherwise you will threaten the man.'
Sometimes being smaller or being beautiful becomes a goal that excludes the possibility of being something else besides a wife. Being successful in business, sports, science, art, music or being a good person are not usually the images we see promoted to women.
Because I am female
I am expected to aspire to marriage
I am expected to make my life choices
Always keeping in mind that
Marriage is the most important
Now marriage can be a source of
Joy and love and mutual support
But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
And we don't teach boys the same?
Most women's magazines are not about how to expand the reach of your non-profit business that helps feed blind orphans.
It's usually about looking hot, pleasing a man, or how long is too long to wait until he pops the question. Not only is this a little heteronormative (what about women who don't want to get married to men), but it also shifts our focus away from who we are as whole people. Marriage and long-term relationships are pretty nice but they are not the only thing to aspire to. It's certainly not what we teach men to achieve.
We raise girls to see each other as competitors
Not for jobs or for accomplishments
Which I think can be a good thing
But for the attention of men
Women tend to focus on being better looking than other women instead of working harder than each other. Not as many women's magazines talk about how to lean in harder. They're about attracting male attention. The cover girl dream body can sometimes steal women's focus away from being effective and accomplished people. Women tend to want to tear each other down instead of build each other up. Where is the #shinetheory, ladies?
Does hating on each other's bodies help us achieve anything really?
We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings
In the way that boys are
Feminist: the person who believes in the social
Political, and economic equality of the sexes
Girls are taught early on to keep their virginity like it's some sort of jewel while boys are encouraged to experiment and play the field. Sometimes the goal of the cover girl dream body is really just about wanting to get laid but one must be "desirable" in order to fulfill that. Being a feminist just means wanting to have the same political rights, the same economic opportunities and the same level of social respect that men have. I'm sure some men aspire to the cover boy dream body but my gut is telling me it's probably not as many men as women.
Let's listen to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Beyoncé. Let's be more than "just his little wife." I want you look at the reason you want to be smaller. What DRIVES this goal?
Is it for health?
Then focus on eating vegetables and moving your body regularly. Quit smoking.
Is it for sex?
Download a dating app or sign up for a online dating company. The stigma is gone now. Everyone is getting laid, guys. At least that's what it looks like from my perspective as someone who has been in a relationship for a long time.
Is it for a relationship? or marriage?
Do you really want your life partner to judge you based off your looks? Because age is going to happen and looks will likely fade for both of you. It'd be nice if your future partner was really turned on by your intellect, your sense of humor, your ball handling skillz, or your passion for making the world a better place.
Is it for your career?
Might not be so good for your career if every time you are supposed to be typing up a report, you're really daydreaming about carbs. Is there a way to focus more on your performance or your education?
These are just some ideas. Imagine the brain space you would have if your focus shifted away from becoming the love child of Barbie and GI Joe and moved toward what REALLY makes you happy in your life, whatever that may be.
Magazines shouldn't be telling you what your dreams should be.
Go get it, girl. You FLAWLESS!