Society’s visceral reaction to the title of this piece tells you everything you need to know about how toxically it treats women and girls on the basis of beauty.
In the past, if I were to stumble upon another female’s blog post with this exact title, I would have been appalled and disgusted. It would have made me cringe super hard had I not seen any tag that said something to the tune of #bodypositivity or #effyourbeautystandards.
“Wow. Get over yourself, hun.”
“Actually, you’re not even that great [insert insulting opinion about said female’s appearance here].”
“Ugh, the arrogance of this chick.”
These generally describe the incredibly damaging, snarky lines that would have surfaced within my mind. It *might* have been some of the very thoughts you had upon opening this piece, too. I’m making a big bet that it was.
This visceral, disturbing reaction I used to have / much of society today has to any woman declaring her love for her body/appearance directly speaks to how inherently evilly we treat women and girls. Because the default assumption made is not only that we hate the way we look, but in fact, we SHOULD. We have a million and one things we would change about our face, and speaking of which, we should. We hate our body, and hell, we should.
Anything that suggests otherwise (such as the title of this post) would imply that we are arrogant / perhaps downright narcissistic, or that by declaring our love for our own bodies, we must be implying that we look better than others. Anything that suggests otherwise might imply that we clearly have some sort of visual ailment, because Cosmo can most assure us that, no, we in fact should never dare to love the way we look, and here’s the 10,001 reasons why. (I’m a 90s kid so Cosmopolitan magazine may be a slightly dated reference at this point. Instagram is arguably the biggest culprit of today. But — ahem — in the scholarly words of 90s royalty Sir Mix-A-Lot: “Cosmo ain’t got nothin’ to do with my selection”).
But back to being serious….
I am 28 years old and I have been fighting a 28-year old battle with my insecurities about my appearance.
Everything from weight to height, from body hair to skin color, from acne to sun spots, from cellulite to the size of my nose, lips, cheeks, and jaw. In fact, these insecurities are likely what incited my past disturbing, visceral reactions to other women being positive about themselves.
I struggle with these insecurities today, and I struggled with them yesterday, and I will struggle with them tomorrow. The difference is that now, I can promise you for every single aspect I don’t like about myself, I can name 20 more things that I absolutely adore.
I would have loved to have had this be one of those inspirational pieces in which I could honestly claim that “there isn’t one thing I don’t love about myself”. I suppose the ideal goal is that one day that CAN be the truth, but as of now, it isn’t. And that’s okay, because even in the throes of this 28-year ongoing battle, I have entered upon a new era of self-love. And with that self-love has come a whole lot of self-acceptance. A type of acceptance that has allowed me to look at the mirror far less. Take selfies far less. Compare myself to other women far less. Check the weighing scale far less. A type of acceptance that tells me how deeply misguided this patriarchal, Eurocentric society is which tells my 15 year old sister and I that our worth is mostly relegated to our beauty and not much else. And when I used the term “inherently evil” above I wasn’t being hyperbolic: it is a society that — as actress and “I Weigh” movement founder Jameela Jamil perfectly describes — “sells us self-consciousness”. Not a single female on earth is spared from this monstrous treatment. Not. One. We are conditioned and expected to hate ourselves.
Strangely enough, despite my current insecurities, theres nothing I really want to *change* that much about myself. While this seems like an anomaly case, I believe this again stems from the newfound self love. I love the woman I’ve grown to be/am growing to be — one who is kind, confident, intelligent, compassionate, and funny (okay fine, I’ll let you be the judge of that last one!). It is because I love myself for my traits that have nothing to do with appearance that I have learned to, in turn, love my appearance. In fact, I have learned to associate the former with the latter. This kind, confident, intelligent, compassionate, funny girl is also the short, curvy, mocha-skinned, black-haired and brown-eyed girl — and vice versa. The two go hand in hand. I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t the former, but I *also* wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t the latter, if that makes any sense. This is the way the forces of the universe decided I look, and I have not just “accepted” but have embraced their decision.
As paradoxical as it seems, I know it to be true that this journey of self-love will always be in lockstep with this battle of body/appearance acceptance. There will never be a time at which I will purely eliminate every single one of my insecurities and only then declare that I am self-accepting and self-loving. NO! There will be beautiful days and ugly days in what is altogether a beautiful and ugly process — beautiful, because it is a process of defying societal norms + self-growth, ugly, because it is a process that shouldn’t exist to begin with. A perpetual work-in-progress beauty project, if you will. The idea is to reduce/eliminate the darker days, yes, but not to put self-love and self-acceptance on hold until having done so. That incredible journey started about 2 years ago for me— and rain or shine, acne growth or weight change, it will carry on. It WILL carry on. The resolute confidence I have of this is a testament to one of the many wonderful outcomes arisen from this very journey itself.
So, yes — I love the way I look. In a perfect world (and thereby non-patriarchal, non-misogynistic world), I wouldn’t have to apologize for this statement. I wouldn’t have had to subsequently explain myself with a lengthy qualifying statement as to how I don’t mean it in any arrogant sortof way but in a self-acceptance and female empowerment sortof way — it would already be the default assumption made. But as you know, that’s exactly what I’ve done. I *have* explained it. The bulk of this piece has been me explaining it. Again, this is because we live in a time in which a woman who loves herself is not only an outlier but some sort of error. A glitch in an otherwise orderly world in which self-unacceptance is nearly universally accepted.
But the hope is that this unnecessary explanation of my ultimate love of my appearance in this piece speaks to the toxicity of global beauty expectations in a slightly different way. And of course, what is embedded in those horrendous beauty expectations are beauty standards — a concept which needs to become extinct in and of itself. The only “beauty standard” we need ever to abide by is that of acceptance for ALL women’s appearances. Alas, that is a whole other piece for another day.
To any woman or girl reading this who has struggled with her insecurities for the majority of her life as I have — know that you don’t have to pay these toxic (and honestly, utterly stupid) ideals ANY mind. You absolutely are allowed to love yourself as you are — it is quite literally nobody’s business to tell you otherwise. As someone who has dealt with lifelong insecurities but is learning to overcome them, my advice to you would be to take time to find out what it is that may help you in fighting your own battle. To offer some suggestions, it could be making a goal / pledge to yourself to:
- throw out your weighing scale or drastically reduce its usage
- look into the mirror less often
- take selfies less often
- make a list of all the attributes (both physical and non-physical!) you love about yourself and remind yourself of them daily
- only follow body positive / inspirational pages on social media (I personally prefer staying off social media altogether)
- end a habit of searching for any celebrities/persons deemed “beautiful” by societal standards and comparing yourself to them
- cut out anyone from your life that makes you feel negative about your appearance (or have a serious conversation with them about their impact on you, if not possible)
No matter which way(s) you elect to battle your insecurities, remind yourself daily that you ARE enough NOW. You are incredible the way you ALREADY are. I know I am.
“And if you like the way you look that much, oh baby, you should go and love yourself.” — Justin Bieber
Hey JB — was that meant to be a weak attempt at an insult? Because it kindof sortof sounds exactly like what I’m going to do.