A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being Chief Bridesmaid for my friend Lynda’s wedding. We all received the works – professional make-up, hair, everything. It was quite a treat being able to literally roll out of bed at 8:30am and have it all taken care of.
But I’ll tell you what wasn’t a treat. All the ladies flitting in and out of the rooms waiting to get primped and polished were engaging in that traditional wedding practice, body shaming. Not body shaming each other – they were hating on their own bodies.
‘Oh, she’s so lovely and skinny, I’m so fat.’
‘I wish I had a figure like yours!’
‘I just hate my legs so much. I hate them.’
This talk has really upset me lately. No one should hate their appearance. So, short of getting on my knees and begging, I had to say:
‘Ladies, PLEASE! There is no right or wrong way to have a body! You are all perfect as you are, because you are you. Some women are thin, some women are big but it doesn’t matter – let’s try a bit of body positivity, shall we?!’
I couldn’t bear the thought of these awesome women being brought down by their own low self-esteem, especially Lynda herself. Unfortunately, I think it fell on deaf ears, but I needed to try anyway.
Let me say at this point, Treasures, that after a lot of work and a hard journey, I am now truly happy with my body. And by work, I don’t mean that I was one size and shape, went to the gym for months and am now at a point where I’m happier because I’m thinner or more toned.
No – I spent time exercising my state of mind.
Sure, I’ve got a bit of a tummy and a few stretch marks, and sometimes in photos my face looks rounder than I’d like, but it does everything I want it to do. I can run, jump, dance, cuddle and kiss. It’s my body and I am completely in love with it.
I appreciate that this doesn’t happen overnight. Last month, Jennifer Aniston wrote a badass essay on this very subject; that women are a slave to the media, and that this is damaging our mental health by skewing our perception of what it means to look beautiful. She’s spot on when she says:
‘Sometimes cultural standards just need a different perspective so we can see them for what they really are — a collective acceptance… a subconscious agreement. We are in charge of our agreement. Little girls everywhere are absorbing our agreement, passive or otherwise. And it begins early. The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into. This conditioning is something girls then carry into womanhood.’
In short, throughout our lives, we’ve been systematically taught to hate our bodies. Terrifying, but true. And we are now teaching our daughters to hate theirs.
Over time, I’ve been able to distance myself from the suffocating image of beauty that society rams down our throats every single day. I must admit I’m not totally free of these shackles, and I’m not going to lie – it’s bloody difficult. Your low self-esteem beats you over the head at regular intervals, shouting ‘Will you EVER stop being unattractive?!’ It’s a beast. It eats your brain and makes you feel shitty.
The first step we can make is acknowledge the beast. Let’s take a moment to examine what we’ve been fed all our lives. ‘Beautiful’, ‘slender’, ‘fair’, ‘princess’. Appearance, appearance, appearance.
What about our character?
What about our generosity, kindness and our ability to make someone laugh so hard that beer comes out of their nose? In the grand scheme of things, what’s really important, and what will people remember us for in years to come?
If you’re a mother, think about how your children will talk about you when they’re older. Are you only eating an apple and Diet Coke for lunch because you’re hoping they’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, my mum was great. She always managed to get into those size 8 jeans’? Or would you rather them say, ‘My mum gave the best hugs in the world and always spent quality time with us’?
If you’re unhappy with your body, you’re not alone.
Millions upon millions of women the world over feel crappy about their figure, their skin, their face, their hips. The list is endless and the road is long. Being unhappy with one’s body can negatively affect your mental health, and that’s just not worth your precious time and energy.
But here’s the thing: your friends, your family, your boyfriend or your girlfriend can tell you you’re beautiful until they are blue in the face, but I know from experience that you will never believe it until YOU believe it. Until the day you pick up that figurative baseball bat and give your low self-esteem a good bashing because it DOES NOT OWN YOU. You have CONTROL over how you see yourself, and in order to improve your happiness and well-being, you’ve got to be wise to the beast’s tricks.
Don’t let the beast within define your perception of your own beauty.
Ever-lasting beauty comes from the inside out, so concentrate on growing, learning, laughing, and living life as best you can, because no one else can do that except you.
So pick up that bat, look in the mirror and say, ‘I’m amazing.’ Because you really are.
If you enjoyed this post, why not check out ‘The Unrealistic Ideal of Looking Picture Perfect All the Time’?