She approached me at a banquet dinner and told me she was wondering if I’d give her three minutes of my time to help with a doctoral project. She’s studying psychology and needed a broad sample of women for her research.
I’m pretty passionate about education and higher learning and achieving and all that good stuff, so it didn’t take me long to agree. Heck, I didn’t even have to set down my glass of pinot to help.
She explained that she was going to show me a series of photos of twenty-five women of various shapes and sizes and I was to choose the one I thought most resembled my own body. It didn’t have to be a perfect match– just the closest I could find.
Easy peasy, right?
I looked through all the faceless images. Scrutinized the shapes, sizes, and proportions and, finally, handed one to her.
She glanced at it, glanced at me, and repeated, “You’re trying to find the picture that most closely resembles your own body type and shape.”
“So this is the one you think is closest? Number fourteen?”
I nodded again.
She noted down some data, then told me more about her research.
She’s looking into women’s perceptions about their own bodies. She’s trying to see if, as a whole, we have an accurate view of what we truly look like. Are we in denial? Are we too harsh? Are we spot-on? Do we really have no idea? Do we fixate on a certain body part and miss the whole picture?
She hasn’t completed the research and doesn’t have any final conclusions to share. However, she did reveal to me, when all my info had been recorded, that I had selected a picture of a 5’5″ woman who wears a size 16.
I’m 5’7″ and wear an 8.
She gently asked if I had lost a great deal of weight at some point.
What she was getting was whether or not I had, at some point, been larger than I am now and had lost some of that weight. The answer to THAT question was “No.”
I did reveal to her, however, that I had, at one point, been significantly smaller. I told her that the only photos of myself in which I had thought I looked “normal” were when I tipped the scales at about 110 and wore a 3 tall.
I’ve never worn a size 16. I’ve never worn over a 10, to be honest.
But I look at that picture and it’s the one that best matches what I see when I look in the mirror. That’s what I see.
The young woman doing the research pulled out photo number nineteen and showed it to me. “I would have chosen this one for you. I think most people would have.”
I looked at the picture. The woman’s body had some curve to it, for sure. If I had to guess, I’d say she felt her hips were slightly wide in comparison to her shoulders. But her waist was small. Her breasts full and high. Her legs not thin, but long and strong. She looked so much smaller than me. I could find similarities in certain features, but the overall impression seemed so much different from what I see in myself.
It’s hard learning that you’re not really the girl you see.
It’s even harder when you can’t see the girl others see even when you really, really want to.