She Hates Her Thighs

Woman standing in front of mirrorShe hates her thighs, the sight of them drive her mad. The tissue is soft, the weakness mocks her. Yet she is somehow pulled into the ritual of gazing and when not in front of a reflection, imagining the horror of her flesh. She is repulsed by its frailty, yet it eludes her, defies her, mocks her then, paradoxically, defines her. It continues despite her efforts to be rid of it. At first she is awash with hopelessness at this self-reflected failure. Reactively, almost immediately, she is stirred into motivation by the powerful endorphins of anger, the drive of dopamine. She is going to do something about it. She will refute any signs of hunger, a sneer. She will rise above the pain of exhaustion as she sweats away the frailty she so disapproves of, pounding the pavement, the treadmill, anything she can find that lets her feel in charge. She will conquer the imperfection.

She is alone in this hatred, she knows. Nobody else cares about her thighs. Yet she feels their stare, their judgement. She flinches as the thought of being seen. She wants to be thin, maybe even invisible. They cannot fault her if they cannot see her. She has forgotten who she is as she stares with great focus at a piece of her flesh. It proves to be a delightful distraction. She will dominate, objectify, and degrade. She has lost her identity in this addictive mess of anger towards her body. It hurts and yet relieves a deeper pain. She has flown above loneliness and confusion. She has removed herself from her own skin. No need, no vulnerability. Yet she weakens, becoming that which she abhorred.

Every day she relives a painful ritual. She wakes up with a mind full of mess she is going to clean up. She draws up her will, which is strong and then quickly misdirects it to where there appears to where she feels she is in control. She finds an outlet for oppressed rage. Powerless over the world of emotion, she will dominate the flesh. Distracted from pain, loss, or fear, she is a warrior of her inner world. She fights against herself, unknowing that she is her own enemy. Strong is the bond with this ever-regenerating illusion of grandeur that tempts her away from her friends, her family, her calling and her own humanness.

Who was the cunning trickster that seduced the beauty into this ugly dance of self-betrayal. How was she fooled to believe she is defective and weak and must conquer herself to be worthy of everything she will then avoid? What curse or discipline is this? Whose purpose does it serve that it persists despite efforts of love and intervention. For this ritual is re-enacted in private moments all over the world.

Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, and for this was punished by being bound to a rock to have his liver eaten daily by an eagle, only to grow back again to be eaten the next day. Some say this was a painful punishment for reaching too high, of not accepting the limitations of being human. There appears to be no mythological heroine to illustrate the story of the girl who hates her thighs. If there was, what would we admire her for? Her courageous deed of stealing and containing her spirit from herself so nobody could have it? Or would we be inspired by her apparent ability to transcend pain, by pecking away at her own body? Would we praise her fortitude in oppressing her own needs, only to be left hungry, empty and in pain? Consciously we would not, though every day we reinforce this disease. We praise girls and women for self-sacrifice, servitude and humility. Their self-worth is anchored in their physical appearance as we ignore inner traits. We are uncomfortable with what we call “negative” emotions, and oppress them in others in subtle and over ways. Anger is considered unattractive, so it goes underground.  Confidence in a young woman is discouraged by the jealousy it brings about in others. Perfectionism is a celebrated trait.

Before we look with shock and disgust at the ultra-thin, child-like woman who appears to be trying to reverse the effects of puberty, let’s think about what it’s really like to be a competent and successful woman in society. Understand that this phenomenon is a reflection of our culture and times. We are miles away from successfully treating severe forms of body hatred.  But we can make little differences every day in the way we respond to women and improve body image problems overall. For starters, we can praise her for who she is, not for how she looks and what she does for us. We can stand beside her when she cries, listen and respect when she is angry. Accept her right to be different. Support her when she is scared, even if it is you she fears, and forgive her when she falls.

© Copyright 2011 by By Shirley Katz, PhD, RP, CCC, therapist in North York, Ontario. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Keith


    June 21st, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I hate it that there are women who feel all of this anguish and self loathing about their bodies, but honestly it drives me a bit mad that this is all that some of them always talk about! I do not mean to be heartless but at some point you want to tell them to get a life, that life is more than about the size of your thighs or whatever. I know that I am going to get pummelled to bits over this post, but I am tired of hearing about it and listening to it. You ladies often tell us men that we need to get a clue- so now I am turning the tables on you. All of this matters to no one but you, so get over it.

  • JJ


    June 21st, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    I think the whole point of this post is that weight and body image becomes a monster, an addiction that takes over a life. Rationally, I know the size of my thighs makes no difference. And I try to “get over it” but it’s not so simple. It’s like telling an alcoholic that alcohol is ruining his life; true, but the issue is beyond rationality.

    I recently went through a period of relapse into an old eating disorder, and lost a lot of weight. When I was at the gym, I got so many positive comments about the “incredible shrinking JJ,” which made me uncomfortable b/c I knew in no way was I don’t anything positive for myself. But it was really enlightening to me to see that unanimously EVERYONE I casually encountered treated me like I had just found the cure for cancer. It was really sad.

  • Jade


    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    Hi Keith I think you are being pretty narrow minded don’t you think? have you never had those fears and insecurities about yourself? Oh wait I am sure you have not, men don’t usually feel this way about themselves because society does not make them feel all of the pressure that women feel. So until you have walked a mile in our shoes please don’t judge so harshly. Thanks.

  • JBird


    June 22nd, 2011 at 9:32 AM

    This article is SPOT ON. I, too, suffer from this intense body hatred. I’m not even much overweight, but I nitpick everything apart while my insides are boiling over with anger and hatred. It’s a kind of suffering we inflict upon ourselves, wanting to be perfect/admired/like the girl in the magazine who gets attention and compliments so effortlessly. The outside shell gets all the attention it seems.

    I’ve lived in this prison my whole life, it’s not something that is logical or rational, and the idea of someone saying “get over it” is laughable. This is a deep, pathological issue that is brimming with fear and sadness. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in this pain.

  • Tina Q.

    Tina Q.

    June 22nd, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    That was beautifully written, Shirley. So eloquent! :) It’s ironic that on the one hand we do encourage this phenomenon, which is indeed a reflection of our culture and times as you say, in our glossy magazines and TV shows by using stick-thin presenters and models. Yet we go on to berate it in those same mediums when they become too thin for our tastes.

    It’s so hypocritical it’s not funny. No wonder some women become so obsessed with their bodies.

  • Blaine


    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Society has made us all like this, okay? I don’t think that there are too many little girls growing up who think that their legs are too fat, but give them time and they too will fall prey to the society that can make even a size 2 gal feel like she needs to lose a few pounds.

  • Carolina


    June 23rd, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Life is about so much more than this. I am saddened that there are women who are still held back by self image and the detrimental way that they think of themselves. How do we ever think that we are going to adavance and move ahead in this world in the ways that we profess that we want when this is sometimes still the only thing that we think about? I want to be stronger than that, and I want the same for my fellow females.



    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    It’s really sad that some people and especially some women treat themselves this way because they think they’re not good. Please understand that nobody is perfect an you may well be a very attractive person even with your ‘imperfections’. There is no need to punish yourself by doing things like these when you can put in the same energy in making yourself a better person and many other things.

  • larry


    June 24th, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    people who have this inferiority thing cooking in their head really need to seek out help.because in a world where everybody puts the others down and glorifies himself,if you are thinking low of yourself then there really is a problem!

  • Shirley Katz, Ph.D., CCC

    Shirley Katz, Ph.D., CCC

    June 29th, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Its interesting to me that some people seem very empathic, and others quite judgemental. The focus on the body is not different then alcoholism, sex/porn obsession, gambling and other types of obsessional escapism from emotional pain we are taught not to express. So for them men, perhaps you are not taught to focus on being thin, but being strong and without vulnerability – hence perhaps you don’t present in therapy with body image issues, instead you are dealing with drugs, gambling or unhappy wives who complain that you can’t communicate? Empathy is a great elixer. “Get over it” never actually helps.

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