What would you say if every day I told you that you were fat, ugly, and disgusting? Chances are you would tell me to get lost. Sadly this is how many women talk to them selves on a daily basis, often every time they look in the mirror.
How many times have you told yourself, “I’ll be pretty if I can just lose these last 5 pounds,” or “I’ll be good enough when my skin clears up.” According to a study by Simple Skincare (1), the average woman looks in the mirror 8 times a day – that’s 8 chances to verbally abuse yourself in one day. Just one day! To understand why women behave this way it’s important to understand what they are up against.
With the advent of mass media, women are being exposed to hundreds, possibly thousands of advertisements a day (2). We are constantly bombarded with airbrushed images of impossibly beautiful women whom we foolishly compare ourselves too. We have been led to believe that we can look like these women if only we buy the right skin cream or take the right diet pills. The problem is that these ads are so prevalent that even though most of us know better, we become subdued into thinking that this is how a normal woman should look.
The standard runway sample size is a zero right now (3). While a small percentage of women are naturally lithe, this is simply not the norm for most. Now I’m not advocating obesity as I think that striving to be healthy is a noble goal, but the pursuit of skinny just to be skinny has to stop. How is it that women with no curves on the edge of starvation are the “beauties” we’ve all come to covet?
Take this photo below for instance. This poor woman is clearly unhealthy, most likely ridden with some kind of eating disorder and yet she is walking the runway as a “model” of beauty.
While we are accustomed to the idea that models should be thin and beautiful as that’s how they make ends meat, now anyone in the public eye is also under the microscope. Actresses must weigh precisely three pounds; news reporters must not only memorize headlines, but also have perfect highlights and blindingly white teeth. Even female athletes must look pretty whilst bounding through the air and crossing the finish line with their hair and make-up in place.
We have a multi-billion dollar beauty industry devoted to covering up every zit, sunspot and dark under eye circle. Got wrinkles? How dare you! Cover those up! And now with the birth of social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest & Instagram there is even a stronger focus on maintaining your image.
These platforms tend to show people at their best as individuals can control and edit the content being uploaded, creating a distorted and decidedly perfect version of reality that is contrary to ups and downs we all experience. Truly we cannot be picture perfect 100% of the time, but our culture’s current obsession with online perfection only encourages it.
How Women See Themselves
With the prevalence of the idea that beauty equals acceptance, success and ultimately happiness, it’s no wonder we beat ourselves up for falling short of perfection. Dove Beauty recently put together a video about women’s perceptions of themselves that actually brought me to tears:
Each woman was asked to describe herself to a sketch artist as well as the woman she had just met in the studio. There’s something that really struck me about this video — Every single woman describes herself to be less attractive than she actually is! Why are we so quick to acknowledge every single fault yet fail to notice all of our good parts too?
Could it be this culture of airbrushing out every single flaw? This picture perfect display depicts a very skewed vision of reality and makes women think that there is something wrong with the way that they are. This exercise showed these women how negative they are towards their appearance and allowed them to acknowledge themselves in a different and more positive light. This begs to teach us that we are all beautiful in our own way and we can see it if we only take the time to do so.
As women we are programmed to see our flaws; we need to embrace them and stop viewing them as barrier to overcome.
Fortunately, Women’s Viewpoints Are Starting to Shift
Along with the incredibly positive takeaways from the Dove campaign, there are others in the media trying to shift the way we think about our bodies. Take for example this brilliant woman from Adelaide named Taryn Brumfitt. Previously a bikini fitness competitor, she began to feel even worse about her body after having children. She was on the verge of getting plastic surgery when she decided that enough was enough.
She taught herself to love her body over a period of time and is now trying to raise money for a documentary she’s calling, “Embrace (4).” Women like this remind us that we are more than our flesh and bones. We have many gifts to give to the world that have nothing to do with how shiny our hair is or how toned our abs are. She makes a great point that we spend so much time and energy trying to fit into an ideal that is for most of us unachievable. She challenges women to love their bodies and by doing so opening up the opportunity to give back and make an impact on the world around them, rather than focusing so much on their own body image.
Messages of acceptance from the Dove Campaign and Adelaide’s Tarryn Brumfit feel like a breath of fresh air amidst the unrealistic and distorted images of women floating around these days. As women we need to take off our blinders and start feeding ourselves with healthy images as well as a steady diet of self-love and acceptance. Besides, if we don’t, who else will?
My challenge to each woman who reads this article is to tell yourself how beautiful you are today, in this very moment, with no excuses or conditions. Make a choice to love yourself just as you are, filters be damned!