Something has been on my mind lately. Well, the seed was planted in my brain a long time ago, but it recently bloomed into a full on hyacinth takeover in my head...ANYWAYS, it has to do with women and this whole movement about Photoshop, and being real, and not being perfect, and accepting yourself and all that jazz.
Let me set the scene: I am watching a girl power commercial, I think it's for Girls Club, or something like that. But they cut to a girl sitting on a bench next to a Victoria's Secret ad. She looks ashamed of herself in comparison to the picture and the voiceover says something along the same lines. We've all felt that feeling though, right? We watch, or scroll, or dig for pictures of these skinny, beautiful, genetic jackpots. Then we start to compare, which leads to feeling inadequate. Everyone knows what I am talking about, right? This part is easy. It's what follows that has been giving me issues.
What typically happens next, is someone blames Photoshop. They tell us that we shouldn't compare ourselves to these unrealistic images. They say no one looks like that in real life. They might even blame media for bombarding us on the daily with unrealistic expectations. They show a video of how much it takes to create the curves, or cover up the blemishes. Basically, the message is "That isn't real. Don't believe it and you will feel better about yourself."
I really really really think this argument misses the actual issue at hand. I don't think we should be telling girls that they shouldn't compare themselves because these photos and images aren't real, or that it's just someone's "highlight reel." I think we should be telling them that being beautiful doesn't make you any more worthy. I think we should show them all of the successful, awesome, intelligent women out there who didn't get there only because they are "pretty." I think we should give them more options than just not believing anyone could possibly be that physically perfect. Here is why.
SOME PEOPLE ARE THAT BEAUTIFUL. There really are women, who I have seen with my own two eyes, that are just ridiculously beautiful. Like, they make me loathe myself and pick myself apart beautiful. If we tell young girls that they shouldn't compare themselves to women in magazines, then when they come across these women in real life, all arguments will be discarded and they will be back to square one, more confused than ever. Not to mention, we are teaching them that we need to bring someone else down, in order to feel better about ourselves. I don't want to teach my future daughter that the only way to feel good about herself is to remind herself that someone else isn't as pretty as they actually appear. I want her to be the type of woman that will celebrate the beauty in others without it detracting from her own, because she understands beauty is only PART of who she is.
As an example, do you remember The Chive? An entire site dedicated to every day women who are hot. The girl next door with the perfect ass, gravity defying rack, and impossibly proportionate facial features. These women exist, and the more we tell young girls that they don't, the more credibility we lose at their self esteem's expense. We need to get to the root of the problem, and I really don't think it's Photoshop or staged Instagram posts.
Aside from the fact that blaming Photoshop is misleading, I think the biggest casualty with how we are fighting low self esteem is that we are ignoring the real issue: that we are being brought up to believe that beauty = worth. It took me 30 years to figure out that this is not the case. I always thought you had to be the hottest girl in the room to get the guy, the job, the self esteem, or even the friends. That is simply not the truth, and it leads to a host of issues down the line that take years to sort through.
Imagine sitting down with your future daughter. You can tell her "Those woman don't even look like that! She probably has cellulite, acne, and a big nose. They just covered that up with Photoshop! It's unrealistic." OR you could tell her this: "That woman is beautiful, isn't she? But that's only one part of her. It doesn't define her. Just like the thickness of your hair, or your jean size doesn't define you." Then show her ALLLLL the successful, happy, loved, women that don't fit into society's mold of what beautiful is. Don't tell her she shouldn't try to be beautiful, because it's unrealistic. Show her she can take pride in her own beauty and then move on with the rest of her day. Empower her by showing her how to empower herself and others at the same time.
Don't you wish someone would have told you that? That it's okay to spend some quality time in front of the mirror doing the best you can with what you got, but that after you leave the bathroom, the rest of your day does not depend on how you look? That there are actually men out there that are mature enough to see real beauty that shines through your pores from the depths of your soul? That there are plenty of women out there that got bad ass jobs even though they don't look like a model? Maybe someone did tell me these things, but I never felt them until I had spent years and years and years assuming that if I wasn't skinny and at least kind of pretty, I wouldn't get the things I wanted out of life. That is seriously such bull shit. And it's not Photoshop's fault I felt this way.
This kind of leads me to my next point. Stop saying I am just a beautiful as that woman, just in my own way. In my mind, this just reinforces the fact that a. I have to be beautiful to matter, and b. that you are just telling me what I want to hear. I am not as beautiful as a lot of other woman - that is just the cold hard truth. Can I be beautiful in my own way? Absolutely. Can I become more beautiful by societies standards if I put some time, effort, and money in? Once again, yes. But I could hire the best plastic surgeon and spend all day in front of the mirror, and I will just never look like Miranda Kerr. I can obsess, and collect pics on Pinterest, and pick myself apart from head to toe, but at the end of the day there is always going to be a million woman that are more beautiful than me...and that doesn't make me any less of a woman. So let's stop telling each other we are as beautiful as our hottest friend in the group...it just reinforces the idea that you have to be that pretty to be that meaningful.
We are not all VS models. Hell, we aren't all even the types of girls that would be featured on a men's website for them to gawk at. But more power to those women, and more power to us! It's not either or. That's awesome that the cells in their bodies have arranged themselves to a societally acceptable form...but it's also awesome that I snagged a hunk even though I am probably just a solid 6. Beauty is beautiful, but so is confidence, intelligence, and a sense of humor. And if you have all four then my god you might be a Unicorn and I commend you without feeling any less about myself. (Okay, I will feel a little less about myself, but I have 30 years of false messaging to override here...it's a process!)
One final note. If I could tell my future daughter one last thing, it would be that if someone does treat her like she doesn't matter as much because she isn't as pretty, then that's an issue with them, not an issue with her. I know we hear this a lot, but I can't stress it enough. "What Suzie says about Sally says more about Suzie than Sally." Over and over and over again. I will preach this to her, I will show her examples of this in real life, and I will do everything in my power to help her understand that she should take pride in herself, but at the end of the day, how someone chooses to accept or reject the result of her efforts, has nothing to do with her worth, and everything to do with what the other person is still working through.
So can we all stop blaming Photoshop, the media, and anyone else besides ourselves? Let's recognize the beauty in others, and remember it has nothing, and I repeat, nothing to do with how worthy we are. We can live any life we want whether we are "pretty" or not. Let's embrace the things that make us unique, take pride in the bodies we have been given, and then move on with the rest of our GD day.