People like Beauty Redefined, Adios Barbie, Fit vs. Fiction, About-Face, and Operation Beautiful.
Even though I try really hard to surround myself with positive people and messages – I still hear so many examples every day that remind me why we need all these groups – and all the others like them - to keep doing what they’re doing. I hear ‘fat-talk’ everywhere – people battling their food demons, talking horribly about themselves, avoiding their reflections, not participating fully in activities; taking up as little space as possible. I don't like it, and I will keep trying to change it.
The thing is, and the reason why we have to keep going, is that lots (and lots) of women (and increasingly younger girls) have internalized the unrealistic beauty expectations of our culture so much; a culture that values both thinness and youth above all, that they find themselves in a daily battle with their physical selves.
It’s an unhealthy obsession with our shape, size and weight that is fed a toxic diet of of insta-celebrities, models, and actresses projecting images of airbrushed ‘perfection’ everywhere we look. It develops from the constant feed of beauty product ads convincing us we need ‘improvement’; and that we’re just not good enough. Everything is too big…our ankles, thighs, stomachs, butts, arms, backs. But, wait, you’re too small too, not ‘womanly’ enough; small breasts, thin lips, narrow eyes, boyish hips. You’re hairy, everywhere. That needs to go. And if you don’t want to get it ripped off your body with hot wax, then be sure to bleach the hell out of it. And the hair that does get to stay is too straight, curly, frizzy, flat, dry, and of course, grey. Ick, we can’t have that, you might look older than 30. And of course, that’s not attractive (or so we're told).
Don’t forget your skin – and I’m not just talking about your face. Your elbows, knees, heck, even the soles of your feet need work. It’s too dry, no wait, too oily. There are blemishes and sunspots and worst of all, wrinkles – even if you can’t see them. You need to prevent them. Again, you don’t want to look older than, ack, 30. Your teeth aren’t white enough, or big enough, or straight enough, and your lips aren’t pink enough or glossy enough or even remotely kissable. Better get to work, there’s a lot to do. And lots (and I mean LOTS) of your money to be spent doing it.
The fact is that if we’re not aware of it, or critical about it, we are exposed to a daily barrage of reminders of the thin and young ideal; an elusive standard of beauty that is simply unattainable – and when we blindly accept these messages, it can poison the way we see ourselves, and how we treat ourselves.
Women are waging war on their bodies, and it just. has. to. stop. The starving, purging, rationing, and the profit-driven excessive and unnecessary dieting has to stop. This isn’t about healthy bodies – because believe me, I think that’s hugely important (and hugely personal to each woman) – it’s about internalizing an impossible ideal and driving ourselves crazy trying to achieve it which is far from healthy. Women are encouraged to spend so much time primping, curling, straightening, plucking, squeezing, tanning, waxing, bleaching, shaving, brushing, smoothing, filing, polishing and masking ourselves into oblivion, sinking our hard-earned cash into the multi-billion dollar beauty industry, that we’re slowly blurring the lines between what's fake and what's real, what's healthy and what's not, and what's important and what, let's be honest, doesn't matter at all.
So let’s get real. Let’s stop believing the messages that we’re not good enough – you are. More than enough in fact. Encourage the women around you to challenge the messages – be kinder to themselves and know they deserve more. It costs nothing to believe it.