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Finding Purpose Outside Your Appearance

Finding Purpose Outside Your Appearance

I recently saw the movie Mean Girls in theaters. As a body image and eating disorder therapist, I could not help but notice how the myriad of messages about appearance and unrealistic beauty standards influence the characters in the film. At one point in the movie, Cady Heron, the new girl, is desperately trying to fit in with the popular clique. She is gathered with the three coolest girls in school as they begin to pick apart their bodies, commenting on everything from their hips to their weight to their complexion. 

Cady grew up in Africa without the internet, living in the middle of the safari with just her mother. Homeschooled and spending most of her time in nature or studying, Cady was not socialized to hate her body. She is visibly shocked by this communal dislike that somehow feigns bonding. Cady wonders why these girls are being pitted against their bodies, their ultimate strength. As the girls stare at her, she awkwardly mutters, “I’m not sure what we’re doing but… me too. I’m ugly too.” 

Sometimes I fantasize about all we could accomplish if our focus was not consumed with food and our bodies. How much more energy would we have to connect with loved ones? What if we invested all that brain power in a hobby or passion? Even though you are confronted daily with messages about how your body should look, you are meant for so much more. You have people to connect with, memories to make, and new experiences to savor.

This month, Dr. Anna Packard and I invited our Embodied Body Acceptance group members to create a “mission statement” related to their life’s purpose and meaning. I invite you to reflect on your own mission statement. Consider the following questions: 

What is your unique purpose and how much does that pertain to what you look like? 

Where do you find passion and meaning in your life? 

What draws people to you that has nothing to do with your appearance? 

What do you want to be remembered for? 

What do you want others to know you believed in and stood for? 

One of my favorite writers, Rupi Kaur, shares her thoughts related to her body’s true purpose in Home Body: “I want to leave this place knowing I did something with my body other than trying to make it look perfect.” Consider your connections, your passions, and your purpose—outside of the shape and size of your body.