— A glimpse into the silent epidemic of female self-judgment.
After fifteen years of research and hundreds of interviews with women, author Katherine Cobb has compiled her findings into the compelling nonfiction book, The Self-Loathing Project. The majority of the book is comprised by first-person essays, which Cobb formatted from the interviews. The original questions are also included, plus a resources section and information about how the author personally overcame self-loathing.
Some samples of how women referred to themselves (or in some cases, what others called them) include pork nose, amazon, saggy mess, bubble butt, he-woman, unsightly, freckled, grotesque, disordered, and never enough.
While a large percentage of women frequently reported hating their weight, others focused on a specific body part, personality trait, or social status—in some cases, women had multiple targets on their lists. In asking women the same set of questions, Cobb pushed participants to think about not only what they loathed about themselves, but the genesis of their self-loathing and what they might do each day to show themselves love.
Cobb started the project in 2004 when she realized how frequently women spoke negatively about themselves or picked on their imperfections. This, coupled with becoming conscious of her own inner critic, set her off on a path of enlightenment and understanding for what she deems “the silent epidemic of self-judgment.”
“One of the first things I realized as I began this journey is how self-loathing is based on perception, not reality,” she explained. “Some women had a short list, others a long one, but many said even if they resolved their primary ‘problem,’ they would find something else to pick on. Some of my interviewees also spoke of healing or moving on, and realizing this was an unhealthy, or at least unproductive, mental state.”
Cobb has high hopes for the book. “I hope when women read it, they feel compassion—for themselves, for the person who shared their feelings, and for all women. We are too hard on ourselves and I’d love for all women to see how brilliant, unique, and beautiful we are.”
She also said the women who answered the questions for this project were honest and brave. “Some told me they’d never thought about the genesis of their feelings, and that it was a helpful exercise. There are definitely some common themes, and that makes sense as we come by these feelings quite naturally in today’s world with its emphasis on and definitions of beauty, youth, and ‘what’s normal.’ It’s propagated in the mainstream multiple ways, and also occurs in our family dynamics. But if we can see it for what it is and debunk its merits, we can also see we have the power to move on from this kind of debilitating thinking. Realizing it even exists is the first step. Loving and accepting ourselves isn’t far behind.”
Cobb is beginning the male version of The Self-Loathing Project, as women aren’t the only sex to self-loathe. She is currently soliciting subjects. Interested males can visit her website for more information.
The Self-Loathing Project is available in paperback on Amazon or can be ordered through bookstores.