As I finish winding together the various parts of my new book about body image and riding, I can’t help but wonder how the body image issues most women wrestle with in general may parallel how we imagine we look when we ride.
Consider, for example, the Dove “Real Beauty” advertising campaign in which researchers discovered the degree to which we underestimate our appeal. In fact, they discovered, women are their own worst critics — and only 4% of the women in the world actually do consider themselves “beautiful.”
The odds of feeling beautiful, it appears, are stacked against us. And the objective truth of how we really look doesn’t seem to enter into it at all. Take a look:
Taking it into the mainstream . . .
Ready for a revealing journaling exercise? Pretend you’re walking into the room with the sketch artist. Open your journal and at the top of one page title it: How I see myself. Date it. Now, in short phrases or bullet points, describe yourself to that invisible sketch artist who lives in the pages of your journal. Now find a friend or family member you can trust to be objective (preferably one without an axe to grind) and explain this exercise.
Now , using exactly the same categories of information as your own bullet points, interview your chosen person and write down exactly how he or she would describe you as if you’d gone missing (maybe, for example, on an impromptu and unannounced dash to St. Somewhere on the advice of your favorite Jimmy Buffet song) and they were describing you to a sketch artist.
Now compare. What similarities and differences are most obvious? If you were reading these side-by-side lists that your best friend created, what would you say to her?