Contributed by Canopy Cove
How can we possibly determine self-worth based on weight? Humans are continually working to discover a sense of understanding about the world around us. We identify patterns and assign them names or numbers in an attempt to create order.
No doubt, this has helped civilization and humanity advance, but, sometimes, we miss the mark. There are things that we cannot measure numerically, and our value is one of them.
Despite this, our culture has created and enforced the belief that our worth is defined by our size, weight, shape, and appearance. This ideology has become so ingrained that you would be hard-pressed to find someone that has never struggled with feeling less worthy or valuable because of how they look.
The consequence is study-after-study indicating that an individual’s weight, while not connected to their value, is connected to their sense of self.
The results are heartbreaking, with children that live in larger bodies showing rates of lower self-esteem by early adolescence as well as increased levels of sadness, loneliness, and nervousness and a higher risk of engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking or drinking .
Children, harmed by these ideas, are growing up to become adults struggling with them. Considering all of this, let’s explore why basing our self-worth off of body weight is inaccurate and dangerous and how to disconnect the two.
The Lies We Are Told for Self-Worth Based on Weight
If researchers could study the relationship between an individual’s weight and their value as a person, they would find these factors to be completely unrelated. Even so, our culture continues to purport that the two are inextricably linked and that how much you matter is conditional and based on a number.
Not only that, we are told our happiness, our future, our success, and our relationships, circumstances that make our entire lives, are based on that number. Yet, there are individuals with all of these things, living in larger bodies and individuals with none of them living in smaller bodies.
The only link between the two comes, not because the individual’s weight actually matters, but because our society has decided it does, resulting in unfair and unfounded discrimination against those living in larger bodies .
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Despite this discrimination, there is no evidence to show individuals living in larger bodies are less capable of achieving success of any kind.
Shaky Foundations of Self-Worth Based on Weight
What constitutes the “worth” of an individual is subjective because we don’t all value the same characteristics, talents, or traits in people. For some, an introverted personality is more valued, while, another might prefer to spend time around extroverts.
Because of this, attempting to determine our self-worth based on the varied opinions of anyone else is not only silly but useless. How can someone else decide what is valuable to us?
Cultural ideas of weight are equally fickle. There was once a time where living in a larger body was valued, as it reflected an individual was wealthy enough to feed themselves well. Even today, there are many cultures that value larger bodies as more appealing.
The subjectivity of both worth and weight make them moving targets, always changing based on the whims of others. They are unhelpful, shaky foundations to build something as important and fragile as our self-worth on.
Putting the “Self” Back in “Self-Worth”
Who decided that what we weigh determines our value? We were not born with this belief. We don’t have to keep this belief.
There is a reason “self-worth” has the word “self” in it. It is not worth determined by your friends, your family, your schoolmates, co-workers, or significant others.
It is your worth determined by you. And, who better to determine it?!
You know yourself in-and-out, you’ve been with you since day 1, you’ve carried yourself from challenge to challenge and victory to victory. You are the only person qualified for this job.
When evaluating your self-worth, emphasize the “self.” Check-in and ask yourself, “is this based on my knowledge of myself or is there a lot of outside noise?”
Self-Worth Based on Weight and What Really “Tips the Scales”
So, once we throw out the unhelpful idea of our body weight, size, or appearance determining how much we are worth – to what and where do we look for our value?
Bringing the “self” back into “self-worth” means that the answer to this question is entirely up to you. Ask yourself what you value in the people you love and what you believe makes a person worthy.
Is it kindness, generosity, sense of humor, creativity, shyness, open-mindedness, motivation, assertiveness, organization, being a good listener, being a supportive friend, respecting boundaries, working hard, getting along well with others, positivity, being realistic, being intelligent, being talkative.
Self-Worth = Self-Love
It goes without saying; we love what we value. The more we value the traits and characteristics that make us unique and worthy in our own eyes, the more we love the beautiful and irreplaceable human we are.
The same is true of our bodies, the more we value them for the incredible machines they are and the life through which they carry us, the more we love them regardless of the number on a scale.
Embarking on a journey to reject societies ideas of weight-based value and to determine what you believe makes you worthy will lead to positive and life-changing realizations, recovery from self-loathing and body hatred, and a future of self-love.
Resources: Strauss, R. S. (2000). Childhood obesity and self-esteem. Pediatrics, 105:1.
 Myers, A., Rosen, J. C. (1999). Obesity stigmatization and coping: relation to mental health symptoms, body image, and self esteem. International Journal of Obesity, 23: 221-230.
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About the Author:
Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.
As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on November 2, 2018.
Reviewed & Approved on November 2, 2018, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com