“Don’t read beauty magazines. . . they will only make you feel ugly.” ~Kurt Vonnegut
Almost every woman I know has self-esteem issues, especially when it comes to their bodies.
It’s part of our culture – the Barbie doll image we’ve all grown up with and her impossibly perfect 36-18-33 measurements. What woman doesn’t look in the mirror and see her tiny flaws magnified?
The average woman in the US is a size 14 and weighs 162.9 pounds. The average runway model is a size 0 and weighs 110 pounds.
My best friend has been on a diet since she was 12 years old. When she was pregnant, the doctor told her she needed to gain weight for her pregnancy. It was the first time she felt comfortable enough to drop her dieting and appreciate her body – as is.
We tend to forget our icons of beauty in TV ads and magazines are air-brushed, duct-taped, surgically modified, and as much a fantasy as is the idea of perfection in any form. Yet women are saddled with the myth of perfection, from our body shape to our weight, aging, and even our place in the workforce. While the TV ads proclaim “the most interesting man in the world” is a guy drinking beer who is surrounded by a bevy of women young enough to be his granddaughters. Talk about cognitive dissonance!
H&M recently rolled out their new online virtual models: Images of a virtual woman’s body with a real woman’s face. When I saw the cyber-models, my first thought was, “I have a daughter. What is her body image going to be if real models are too imperfect to model clothing anymore?”
A study conducted on 65 Fijian girls questioned them on how they saw themselves four years after being exposed to western shows such as Melrose Place and 90210. Scientists conducting the study found “serious changes in eating habits among … the adolescents. Those who watched TV three times per week or more were 50% more likely to perceive themselves as ‘too big’ or ’too fat’ than those who watched less TV. More than 62% had attempted to diet in the previous 30 days.”
How do we make sure that we don’t place unattainable body-image expectations onto ourselves or our daughters?
The most important relationship in your life is the relationship with yourself. Every other relationship stems from that one – whether wife, lover, partner, mom, friend, employee, or boss. How you see yourself is crucial to how others see you, and what you allow yourself to think, feel, believe and create.
The first rule of true beauty: be yourself. Or as Dolly Parton famously said, “Find out who you are, then do it on purpose.” It is great to admire beauty in others, but it is something else when you compare yourself against it. We can’t disassociate ourselves from society. We all want to fit in, but none of us should lose ourselves to do it.
Let’s define what beauty really is: confidence, love, empowerment, compassion, and self-acceptance. Tall, short, big, small, round, thin, curves or not – we are beautiful women, one and all! Can you imagine a world where everybody looked the same? How boring that would be! I want to tell my daughter (and myself) each day: Celebrate your individuality. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. Show off your daring and powerful self. Love your body and love your beauty. You are perfect just as you are. In a world of 7 billion people, you are the only You.
My dad would remind me to “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else”, which I’m pretty sure is a Judy Garland quote. Regardless of where it came from, it is something I always try to remember.
What do you find most beautiful in yourself? What do you find most beautiful in others?
Illustration by Rima Hawkes Graphic Design