Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Donna Karan Never Feels Good Enough

Have you seen the newish show on Lifetime called The Conversation?  Amanda de Cadenet hosts and each week has excerpts of  interviews with women from a variety of professions: designers, musicians, politicians and writers. It’s not your usual scripted stuff plugging projects but conversations about work and weight, men and marriage, juicy, real stuff. This past week Donna Karan was one of the guests. After talking openly about losing her mentor (Anne Klein) and her husband, Ms. Karan was asked “how do you feel about your body?” Her answer was “never good enough”. I don’t know if many women would be this honest but I have a hunch many feel this way.

It doesn’t have to do with not knowing what’s “really” important. I’ve seen a determination to lose weight or reshape in clients going through divorces and illness. I remember Jen spoke about the importance of caring about your appearance when sick as it was a sign to her and her doctor that she was invested in the present and the future. She told her doctors "I will be fat or bald but not both." In some ways vanity is part of living, maybe part of being female (if you're female).

 “Not good enough” often exists among type A personalities. It’s part of a type A-er’s inner dialogue to be better and constantly improve. My friend Aidan’s Rowley recently posted  “Do you love your body?” She wrote:
I would love to be one of those loud and proud creatures who exudes confidence about her shape. One of those souls who is all about self/strength above society/size. One of those mothers who proclaims: I love every inch of this body and what it has done!
But let’s be real for a minute. I am not one of these people.
I couldn’t believe the replies. Comment after comment detailed  body dissatisfaction. It made me wonder, with so much made of beauty at any size and loving the skin you’re in, does anybody? Scratch that, I know people do, my mother does (a whole other story).
I love Donna Karan’s work and I’m a huge fan of the Urban Zen Centers she created. She seems to “get it”. So to hear her, still fighting the body stuff upset or surprised me. I feel more at ease with my body than I did in my teens or 20s though I’ve always been a similar size and weight. I am grateful for a healthy body that’s able to run and bend but that’s different. I would describe my relationship with my body as improving but I get that “never good enough” thing. Do you?
Can you relate to what Donna Karan said? How do you feel about your body? Has this feeling changed or evolved over time? Do you expect to be thinking about your body in your 60s? Where do you think the body stuff comes from?

32 comments:

  1. I'm much less focused on the "outside" now than I was when I was younger (but I agree with you that caring for how you look is important, especially when you are going through a tough time). At this point, I feel overall good in my body. Could I pick things apart, and are there moments when I don't like something about myself? Certainly. But it's not very often, and I truly don't focus on it. 

    I think a lot of dissatisfaction with our bodies comes from the media and the unrealistic images we are constantly shown. I think it's hard not to compare yourself to these images. And I would imagine it is much harder to be satisfied with you body in an industry that is so focused on young, "perfect" bodies.

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  2. Interesting, I'm roughly the same shape I've always been (always reasonably thin, and a healthy weight for my height), although I can't say I'm exactly the same weight I was in college.  Nearly 20 years and the birth of a child will do that to a person.  But I wish I could go back to my 20 year old self and tell myself that body is really good and that I'll wish I had it back later!  I guess I probably wouldn't have believed it anyway.  I'm like you, I'm ok with my body but I don't think it will ever be "good enough."  There's always something I can see that maybe everyone else doesn't notice - or maybe they do, I don't know.  But I see it and that's what matters to me!

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  3. I love that you "don't focus on it" Andrea. I am not sure I feel the media is 100% to blame. I think body stuff comes from another place a place of distraction or being goal oriented. I think it's more an "inner" feeling.

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  4. I feel very similarly Jen (and we're around the same age it seems). You can know you're a thin person and like the way you look but maybe due to workouts/being a "tough grader" I am drawn to the things I dislike. And it's funny b/c professionally, intellectually or emotionally I am confident/don't focus on weakness. Complicated!

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  5. I think of my body as a work in progress.  Both from a physical as well as health view.  I am very happy with what I have accomplished, weight loss, strength, and activities (triathlons and a marathon).  But I also continue to try to see what else is possible.   I am most pleased that I have reversed chronic medical issues through diet and exercise.  It is only when I look at photo's that I see the problems.  I also know that it is really my own issue,  and that most people see me as strong and fit, and not the flaws or weakness that I see. 

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  6. I'm confident, borderline arrogant, about almost every aspect of my life but my body.  I will never be happy with my body.  So much therapy has been spent on this topic that I've just now accepted this as my issue.

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  7. I find that dichotomy so interesting. I almost wonder if all the self affirming talk isn't closeting women's lack of body confidence.

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  8. "see what else is possible" I like that spin and I think sometimes women aren't walking around miserable but rather with a desire to tweak/improve. And another good point about what see see not being how others perceive us though if we live in our heads and not others sometimes that doesn't matter. Interesting.

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  9. Maybe it's true what they say about first-borns being type A-ers, because I definitely am. I don't feel dissatisfied, but will always look for a way to improve everything that I do. Would I love being 5'9? Yes. But 5'2 will have to do because there isn't much I could do about it. So I wear big girl shoes. Instead I try to focus on things I have control over like my fitness, my PRs and my career. As for where the body stuff comes from...I think it stems from more places than one. Being a type Aer + working in the fashion industry must have taken it's toll on Donna. Good on her for being honest though.

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  10. The changes that come with aging are not easy to deal with. Yes, I think we'll all be thinking about body topics when we're in our 60s. I like my body now and I hope I will like it in my 60s. I think about that stuff. I saw a group of older women Monday evening and wondered how they feel about the changes. 

    I am aware of the areas of my body I don't expose to the public, but would I join my running club at a swimming pool? Yes. Why? Because I wear a skirted Lands' End suit that hides what I want hidden. "Never good enough" sounds like she continues to make changes, but as others have said, some changes just aren't going to happen. You can't rearrange your basic structure. 

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  11. I go through phases.  Sometimes I think, "Yeah! My body is strong, carried two babies, and is fighting a disease that kicks the crap out of me sometimes. I'm awesome!"  But most of the time, I'm frustrated about the spots on my face that come with pregnancies and aging, the pain my body goes through after a run that it didn't used to, and the mummy tummy that comes with 2 c-sections.  I'm thankful for my health and what my body can do, but I don't know that I will ever be loud and proud.  I'd like to think that I would be, but I probably won't.

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  12. interesting, i am certainly not type A (could you tell?) but absolutely relate to this. it's relieving to hear such a powerful woman admit being self conscious too. There are things i like and many things i dont but that dislike category used to be "absolutely loathe". so yes things evolve. There are many sources of body issues but i give lots of credit to tiger moms and of course the magic of photoshop snipping and smoothing

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  13. I definitely never feel "good enough" when it comes to my body. I am always striving for perfection and it spawned from my mother. I was always bigger than her in my teens and that bothered me. She never failed to tell people her perfect weight and in turn, that made me feel bad about myself. We did count-less diets together and she'd always end up losing more than. It was disheartening. Once I graduated and went to college, I did lose weight and didn't feel as competitive with my mom anymore but the bad thoughts about myself were still there. Even though I've come a LONG way...I don't think I will ever truly be happy with my body. In this society, it's a hard thing to do!! Even now, it seems most talks are all about weight, especially since I literally have people placing bets on how long it will take me to lose my baby weight (most say 6 WEEKS! I gave myself 9 months!!). It's frustrating. I try to avoid triggering people but it's not like they know they are triggering me. Ug. It's a battle. 

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  14. I hear you Erin, that sounds like a complicated food/body relationship growing up. It's really like reprogramming as an adult, doing all the things we can to change the potentially destructive dialog. For some people pregnancy helps as it's your body doing things that aren't about vanity or even about you. I say, lose the weight in whatever way feels right.

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  15. Alysa, I hear you regarding "loud and proud". I also get being grateful for a body that is functioning but I think that is different. I hope you are feeling ok.

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  16. "basic structure" mentally or physically?

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  17. Interesting point that you can want to improve without being full of angst or sadness over things. That's very similar to how I feel. I work at my body and tweak eating and exercise routines but except for extreme hormonal cases don't walk around miserable. I'm 5'2" too somehow I'm over the height thing and sort of fine with that. Some issues pass/others remain.

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  18. Carolyn, funny I said to Vanessa before that having a desire to improve things doesn't mean you are miserable but sad that "not miserable" or as you said not "loathing" is progress. Or maybe progress is progress. I feel it's more than photoshop because if it were media images causing this everyone would feel inferior. Yet, some have much more body stuff than others. 

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  19. Thanks so much for the link, Lauren! I am endlessly fascinating by these questions. I am going to check out the Conversation - it seems right up my alley. 

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  20.  I agree that media is not 100% to blame for our "body issues." Certainly, there are often messages growing up as well as the things you mentioned (great points!), and all those things affect how we see ourselves (to different degrees, depending on the person).

    However, I think that media does have quite an effect on many from an early age on. We are constantly surrounded by "perfect bodies" and most of the time they are just unattainable and don't look like that in real life. Yet, we see them as "reality." 

    I stopped reading magazines a few years ago, and I think it made a difference over time. I do think that what we constantly see does shape and influence us, including our thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

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  21. Gina (Candid RD)June 28, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    Sadly, I can relate.  I used to think I was very confident, but I think I always just hid it well.  I mean, I'm confident, but not necessarily in my looks and about my body.  I pray that I don't get worse as I age, but I took a giant step last year and stopped reading magazines like Fitness or Vogue, just because of the confidence issue.  So far, at least things haven't gotten worse!

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  22. You seem confident Gina (in a great way) interesting many of us report being confident in other, non-body areas. Do you feel skipping the magazines has helped? Aren't there images and thin or perfect images everywhere? Maybe not in our cooking mags.

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  23. you can watch episodes on the site as it's over for the season I believe.

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  24. "tough grader", I think that's exactly the right phrase for it.  I have been trying to use my workouts to focus on what my body is able to do (lift a heavy weight, make it through a double spin class, etc) but that doesn't stop the looking in the mirror at that one spot on my thighs, or my belly on a "bloated" day.  We're always our own harshest critics, if only because no one else ever pays as much attention to us as we do to ourselves.

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  25. And in retrospect, I'm sure we'll all look back and realize none of these worries about an extra inch here or a pimple/wrinkle/frizz there mattered.

    The confidence that a woman -- comfortable with who she is --exudes is probably more attractive than mere looks, but getting that confidence is sometimes a lifelong journey.

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  26. I agree with Dr. Ayala ..and some women just shine with their inner beauty and they attract everyone around them...

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  27. This is interesting. I hate to say that I completely understand where Donna Karan is coming from.
    I hope to one day fully accept what I look like, but as of right now, it isn't where I want to be.

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  28. I hear you Kristen, let's hope we all get to that place. 

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  29. and how do we get that?

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  30. I'm here for the journey. I agree Ayala that many of our picks and issues will not matter but they feel they do now, complicated.

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  31. Finally catching up on my blog reading, and love this post, but find it sad. I would be dishonest if I said I didn't mourn my pre-kids mid section, but, that aside, I do think my body is "good enough" as it is now, and I thinks that's mostly because I went through a period when I was dealing with a lot of autoimmune stuff post babies, and I seriously thought my body {as I knew it} was "falling apart". Now that I feel 100 % myself again, I celebrate being healthy, strong, and able to exercise again. OK-that's how I feel about my body...wish I felt the same way about accepting my "laugh lines" as well :-)

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