I think all women (and many men) understand what a struggle it can be to truly love the skin we are in. We have all looked in the mirror and wished we could change things about our bodies. We have all felt embarrassed or ashamed or irritated by some aspect of our physicality. And I think our current media culture and society’s warped concept of beauty bear a lot of the blame. We are constantly assaulted with images of faces and bodies that are unattainable for most of us – the flawless complexion, the perfect smile, the well-proportioned facial features, the vibrant, voluminous hair, the glow of a tan, the flat tummy…the list could go on forever. And it’s a shame. It’s a shame that people are made to feel so inadequate, so insecure, that they can get to the point of hating themselves. It’s a shame that young girls are taught they need to worry about being thin and pretty. It makes me angry.
I’m angry because society is always trying to convince us that it’s what’s on the outside that really counts. I’m angry that we think we need all the tanning beds and hair dye and wax and makeup and Botox and waist trainers and Spanx and skin bleach and lasers and push-up bras and colored contact lenses. I am angry that people can become so desperate that they are willing to put their health at risk with repeated UV exposure and elective surgeries and dangerous weight-loss supplements. I am angry at whoever came up with the stringent definition of what it means to be beautiful and decided to spread it far and wide. I’m angry at myself for getting caught up in it all. I’ve purchased my fair share of sunless tanner, teeth whitener, and waxing materials.
Unfortunately, damage has already been done. Body confidence issues, eating disorders, and dysmorphia are commonplace today. We have been taught that while it is great to have a dynamic personality, to be intelligent, and to have a loving and giving heart – it’s best to be attractive. The fact that phrases like thunder thighs, muffin top, and saddlebags even exist is a testament to where things have gone wrong. That they are even in our lexicon demonstrates the harshness with which we qualify beauty.
I will be the first to admit that I am not always comfortable with my body. My hair is prematurely graying and I feel compelled not to let it happen (cue the bimonthly dye appointments). I have scars and stretch marks and cellulite and I am quite pale and now I have to wear glasses again. There are days I accept myself the way I am and there are days I compare myself to others and feel like crap.
We need to stand together. We need to address misrepresentation. We need to raise our voices and say that it isn’t okay. We need to show that our flaws are beautiful. Variance is beautiful. Uniqueness is beautiful. At the end of the day, the only person who can truly define what is beautiful is the individual. But if we all try to define it differently, maybe our culture can change. Maybe we can start to truly love ourselves.
Repeat after me – “I am beautiful.”