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Freda Rosenberg graphic


by Freda Rosenberg

Freda Rosenberg has developed a psycho-educational program for women which deals with three issues: body image, self-esteem and self-acceptance, and self-presentation. She conducts public lectures and seminars titled "Myth of the Perfect Woman," "Mirror, Mirror: Learning to Love What You See" and "Dressing from the Inside Out."

I began compulsive eating when I was eight years old. I was always on diets and uncomfortable with my body. Ten years ago, while in college, I began to challenge my basic assumptions about body size. I was working toward my degree in women's studies, read Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach, and met Carol Munter. Eventually, I read Overcoming Overeating and began demand feeding. All these things have come together for me: It's OK to be powerful, to have a presence, to present yourself in a way that feels good to you and that says what you want to say with your clothes.

That's my interest—clothing. I love the feeling of playing dress-up in the attic. That's what shopping should be like—going to a fantasy attic and having fun playing dress-up. This is denied to larger women because we're told to dress a certain way and to remain hidden and because there aren't as many choices in clothing available. I would like to see more and more women of all sizes breaking free from conventions about clothing and body image, determining for themselves what to wear and how to present themselves.

Through my work, I've found that there are two main obstacles to dressing the way we would like. First, as much as we want to be free of our image issues, there is attachment to the "protection" of remaining hidden. This is related to our fears about breaking societal taboos about power, pleasure and making our own decisions and statements. Second, many women have issues with the concept of self-care. To take care of ourselves, to dress and to nurture ourselves in a loving way is labeled self-indulgent. Both of these obstacles combine to keep us from taking time and space for ourselves and from exploring our full potential.

Learning to love and adorn your body is a process. Some of us are just beginning to direct our love and self-acceptance towards our bodies while others of us have been deliberately working at this journey for quite some time. Regardless of where you are in your journey, this mini-exercise will help you identify what inroads you have made in this regard and clarify what areas of exploration still lie ahead for you.

An Exercise: Getting Started

© Freda Rosenberg, 1994

Find some quiet time for yourself to reflect on the following questions. Let the answers that come up create a "snapshot" of how you feel about your self-image now.

Imagine for a moment that you could dress in any way you wanted. Imagine that money was no issue and that all clothing was tailored to fit YOUR body. In other words, you are the ideal image of beauty in our culture and all fashion designers use your body to design their clothing lines. How does that feel?

Since you have all the clothing you could possible want right at your fingertips, what kinds of clothing would you choose to fill your wardrobe? What colors, cuts, styles or fabrics would you have in your closet? Would you dress casually? Formally? Dramatically? Traditionally? What kind of shoes would you wear? What kind of accessories would you wear? Try to be as specific as possible. If it helps, take a minute and write down whatever comes to mind. Let your imagination put together a "look" that you feel you could call your own.

Now, think specifically about what you currently have in your closet. How does your imaginary closet compare with your current closet? Specifically identify where the differences are. What do you have in your closet that is not in your imaginary closet? Clothes that don't fit? Clothes you don't like? Materials you don't like? Things someone else told you to buy or wear? Be as specific as you can.

In exploring your imaginary closet and your current closet you can get a "reading" on where you may be getting stuck in this process. Is your imaginary closet your real closet? If not, why? What is still difficult for you? Is it knowing what you want, knowing what you like? Not feeling that you can get rid of clothes that don't fit? Not spending the time or money to find clothes you like? Are you waiting for your body to change to allow yourself to have your "dream closet?"

You can begin to develop your dream closet right now. Use this exercise to identify internal roadblocks and begin to make some changes. A little at a time, as your budget allows, develop a closet full of clothes that expresses your inner self.

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