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Archive for the ‘Encouraging Thoughts’ Category

What about the Size 6s? or Why I Love Jennifer Lawrence

In Encouraging Thoughts on May 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

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I don’t usually pay much attention to news concerning weight and body image. “Body acceptance” was a big issue for me as a teen, but I’ve been in a really good place for a while now. Hence, I’m not interested in the media’s lbs-obsession that swings between “every size is beautiful” and “obesity is a grotesque epidemic.” I’m a size 4 or 6, depending on the store, and I try to exercise and eat healthy.

However, the recent uproar over the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO’s diatribe against “fat people” has bombarded me at every corner of the Internet. I bring it up because the story and subsequent backlash have gotten me thinking about body image. Specifically, it made me remember the insecurities I had in high school. At 5’ 6”, I fluctuated between 135-145 lbs. and wore a snug size 6. I felt like a beached whale.

There was this series of artsy Chloé ads that I ripped out of Vogue and used as a border around my Georgia O’Keefe poster. Some of them were only pictures of handbags, but one of them featured a super slim, glamorous-looking model, and I remember thinking “I wish I had the willpower to have those thighs.” I didn’t work out enough in my teens or eat that well, but I don’t think any amount of behavior modification could have cut and pasted those legs onto my frame. At its fittest, the figure I have just isn’t made to look like that.

Sadly, I know that these kinds of worries are not uncommon for girls that age. I fell into what I saw as an in-between category: my shape didn’t correspond to conventional-model skinny, nor to plus-size model voluptuous. There weren’t a lot of girls who looked like me in magazines, on the runaway, or gracing the red carpet. From ads to movies to TV, it seemed like there was the society-approved slender set with a full-figured woman here or there, applauded for challenging what is sexy. I wasn’t that full-figured woman; I couldn’t take pride in having a similar shape. To a self-conscious 16-year-old, this meant that if you weren’t naturally plus-sized, you had no excuse for not looking like Kate Moss & Co.

Flash forward seven years, subtract the insecurities along with about 10 lbs. due to a better body image and lifestyle, and you have the present-day me. I’ve gotten over the fact that my physique, a natural weight around 130 at 5’ 6’’, is just not very present among the ultrathin of Hollywood or the bigger women who have defied the norm. I’m not Rooney Mara or Adele (though I find both striking).

And that brings me to Jennifer Lawrence, someone who looks like me in terms of build. I won’t pretend that she’s the first female of her size to become famous, but her catapult to fame has allowed many girls to look at her and say “Hey! She’s like me!” J.Law may be smaller than a size 6, but she’s not your typical Hollywood-svelte. She appears fit and happy to be herself, which is extremely refreshing to me. I hope teen girls around my size see her and remember that it is fine to be your natural weight, that just because you’re not plus-sized doesn’t mean you need to be curve-less.

For the record, I recognize that it can be hard growing up at any size. From thin to full-figured, women (and men) have to weather abuse for the build that they were born with, and the media doesn’t seem to care whether we eat well and exercise. Their aim is often to blindly criticize.

In my experience, it is 100 times easier to maintain a balanced lifestyle if you stop hating yourself and don’t attempt to live up to the unrealistic expectations of anonymous Internet critics or the unforgiving media. Listen to your doctor, and listen to your body.

Bottom line: no matter how big or small we are, we can’t win with everyone. We might as well stop playing the game and love ourselves for who we are meant to be.

To our health,

LM

 

[Image Source: jennifer-lawrence-jan-28.jpg]

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A Little Inspiration from “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project”

In Encouraging Thoughts on May 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm

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This past year, I have become a big fan of “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.” Both shows are hilarious and quirky, and I find the lead characters, Jess and Mindy, to be endearing and relatable in a larger-than-life sort of way. However, I have realized that I connect with each sitcom for reasons beyond my enjoyment of their basic ingredients. NG and TMP assuage my fear of becoming boring and flat as I tack on the years. I’m quickly moving from early to mid twenties, and I can’t deny that I worry about losing the enthusiastic, carefree part of my personality that was so present during college.

It’s not that I have this huge fear of growing older. From where I’m standing, I can see so many exciting stages yet to come in my life: advancing career-wise, achieving complete financial independence, moving to new places, possibly getting married and having children, and so forth. Yet, I have this low-grade, lingering anxiety about undergrad being “the best years of my life.”

I never used to put much stock in this (depressingly) common refrain because, for me, the greatest part of those four years was not the lifestyle that only a party school can deliver. I don’t need to take shots on shots on shots to have a good time now, nor was this ever the case. But I do treasure the intense zest for life that caused me to act recklessly and sometimes make questionable decisions. This was the same fervor that made me so starry-eyed when I read Marquez and Rushdie, so eager to soak up theories on social change and global inequality. College made life incredibly fun and enjoyable; it imbued me with a passion I had never felt before. I am thankful for having such a wonderful experience, but I’m also terrified that this fun-loving reality morphed into history when I moved that tassel from right to left one year ago.

I know that “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” are not at all serious and fairly unrealistic, but they give me hope that no great change occurred when I received my degree. The characters are in their early 30s. They still have fun, still end up in funny situations, and still possess that joie de vivre that I seem to have mistakenly categorized as a singularly collegiate feeling. Perhaps undergrad is really just a blip on the radar of our lives, a place that breeds passion and excitement, but does not extinguish these feelings when we step out into the real world. Maybe I am trying to draw too much from these light comedies, but I don’t think my conclusions are misguided. And there’s no reason why Jess and Mindy can’t be a little reminder each week to enjoy life, no matter our age.

(Still) Passionately,

LM

 

[Image Source: fallon_thenewproject.jpg]

*Remember: It’s Their Loss

In Encouraging Thoughts on April 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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I have this vivid memory of a heart-to-heart I had with my friend Brooke during an island-themed frat party our sophomore year of college. At the time, it was widely known (or so it seemed to me) that I had a crush on one of my close friends, and it just so happened that he had made out with another girl the previous weekend.

[I’d like to take a moment to thank my FB newsfeed and the partygoer who digitally captured them sucking face for bringing this to my attention. Social media really makes it hard for the lovelorn.]

Brooke knew that I was distraught by the whole situation. Over the loud reggae music, she vehemently assured me that make-out girl was rather unfortunate looking, especially beside my incomparable natural beauty. This obvious exaggeration heartened me a bit, and I proceeded to push the whole matter out of my mind for the remainder of the night, encircled by paper leis and overcome by the strong aroma of ganja. “Don’t worry, be happy,” right?

When I think back to that conversation, I know that Brooke was only trying to make me feel better. She was essentially using the old “it’s his loss, you’re too good for him” line on me. It worked because I wanted to believe it, and while I wasn’t actually any prettier than his tonsil-hockey partner or superior to him, I do think he was missing out on something with me. (Apparently, he felt the same way, as we started dating a few months later.)

Regardless of whether other people offer up the “it’s their loss” cliche in an empty, but well meaning sort of way to comfort loved ones, I think it’s important to hold fast to this sentiment when we face rejection in our own lives. Maybe you lost out on a job to someone smarter or more qualified, but deep down, you should know that you would have brought something unique to the table. Now that employer will never benefit from whatever it is that makes you great to work with. Same goes for that girl or guy who didn’t returned your affections – they will never know what makes you an awesome SO. I’m not saying that everyone is a model employee or a perfect romantic partner. But we all have to know that, when we are at our best, there is something special inside of us and anyone who gets to experience it is lucky.

It’s all too easy to attach our self-worth to what we consider our body of success – that long-term relationship, that killer job, that close knit group of friends. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be proud of your accomplishments. Congratulate yourself on your stellar grades or your hard-won promotion. But don’t hinge your happiness on these bright spots because when things take a downturn, as they are apt to do from time to time, you will be left with a chipped sense of self-worth. At this crossroads in my life, I am continually reminding myself of this message. We all need to be our own Brooke, minus the exaggeration. Because perhaps we are not “too good” in all rejection situations, but I think we can safely say that it is, indeed, “their loss,” and we will find our way, so long as we truly believe this.

Optimistically,

Leah Morris

 

[Image Source: rejectionmedium.jpg]

The Curative Powers of a Walk in the Park

In Encouraging Thoughts on March 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm

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I have always enjoyed a good walk. Rainy day expeditions, picturesque hikes, romantic strolls: they’re all gold to these feet. Throughout the years, walks have served different purposes for me. In high school, they were a form of escapism. I could decompress after fights with my parents (They just don’t understand me!) and dream about the future. In college, walking became a simple means to get from Pregame A to Party B.  With no car, taking to the sidewalks was more of a functional activity than anything else. I certainly wasn’t journeying home from the library at 2 a.m. hopped up on study aids to achieve inner peace.

Now that college is over and I have a trusty Honda, the purpose of my walks has changed yet again. These days, it’s like they were prescribed for the preservation of my mental health. Take once daily to avoid sobbing in the fetal position.

I realized this last weekend while weaving through a neighborhood park, serenaded by the melancholy croons of Rogue Wave’s “Cheaper Than Therapy.” (Song synopsis: music and wine are cheaper than therapy.) I had just weathered a rough, or alternatively, successful, night of bar hopping and reconnecting with old friends. Nothing can lift my spirits quite like laughing with past partners in crime, but I can’t exactly self-actualize by downing vodka cranberries and dancing to Ke$ha.

As I let the crisp weather soak up my hangover, I thought about how time spent unwinding with friends isn’t what has kept me grounded during this tumultuous year. Rather, it was this path under my feet, this calming solitude that was giving me an opportunity to reflect. It’s true that half the fun of your twenties is not having everything figured out, but the other half isn’t fun at all, just anxiety and crippling uncertainty.

Everyone needs a way to deal with these feelings; I’ve found my own cure in soul-searching walks. I happen to agree with Rogue Wave in their sentiment that conventional therapy may be overrated, but I don’t support their substitute of drinking to a soundtrack. For me, a cathartic walk in the park wins out over that substance-abuse-problem-waiting-to-happen any day. Sorry, RW.

Much love,

Leah Morris