As the mother of two little girls living in a world that judges a woman’s value on her beauty and how skinny she is, I have spent their lifetime teaching them that they are better than good enough. As a product of that world myself, I have spent my lifetime just trying to feel comfortable in my own skin. We live in a world where people would rather be skinny than happy and where grown women measure their success by their thigh gaps and bikini bridges. Our daughters see this. They are affected.
The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where media treats women like they are objects of beauty; to be seen and not heard. This weighs heavily on a young girl and every thought and action becomes a deliberate choice with ripples that will resonate throughout her entire life. To be seen is to be vulnerable but to be unattractive is to be invisible, which feels almost as bad.
Like many women, I’ve spent years trying to be seen and simultaneously unseen. Passing through space and time from a beautiful child, thru the uncertainty of the teen years and then being thrust at warp speed into the sexual irresistibility of womanhood only to find ourselves sliding into middle age before fading into old age and ultimately death. Why do we allow ourselves to be defined by other people’s perception of who we are?
Little girls come into this world full of hope and beauty and as we age, our beauty fades. It’s no coincidence that so does our hope. We learn pretty early on that the more attractive we are, the more wonderful place the world is for us to be in. By the time the awkwardness of puberty and the teen years hit, our confidence has been shaken and by the time we go to college, most of us will do just about anything to live up to that expectation of beauty.
I know this from firsthand experience. Body dysmorphic disorder had me in its cold dead grip by the time I was 12 and by the time I was 17, I was restricting my food. By 18, I was in college and terrified of what the freshman 15 would mean to my appearance, I was severely restricting my calories, working out for at least 2 hours a day and throwing up every single thing that entered into my body; even water. It was the only way that I felt I had any control over what was happening to me. I will spend the rest of my life in recovery from this. I still occasionally find myself bent over a toilet deciding whether or not to take that next step.
To this day, every taste of food or sip of liquid that enters my mouth is noted. Many days when I look in the mirror, I am frozen in shame at my reflection. Self-loathing has become such a part of who I am that when I look in the mirror and actually like what I see, it surprises me. I am not surprised about this because just over the weekend I saw things that made me understand that I did not do this to myself. I am a product of a society that values men on their strength and intelligence and women on their beauty.
My friend wrote about a throw pillow at Nordstrom that reads,
What a shallow and callous statement for Nordstrom to make to the world about women. I am sure that the buyer at Nordstrom thought the pillow was funny but it’s not. It’s a symptom of the sickness of our society.
Another friend wrote this on her FB status: “… If I were to eat a freaking BOX of Twinkies I would have no choice but to divorce my husband and leave my children and go live on an island where I would befriend a community of wild gorillas and be alone and fat forever!”
This makes me so sad because aside from her feeling that if she were unattractive she’d be doomed to a life of unhappiness, this particular woman is absolutely gorgeous and it troubles me that she feels that her happiness in life is so closely attached to her beauty. It saddens me that any of us feel this way because try as we may to not share these feeling with our little girls we do. They see things and hear things when you think they are not paying attention. They see the disappointment in our faces when our jeans are a little snug or the self-loathing that comes after eating carbs. They know and it seeps in to their tiny little minds and soon, they are watching what they eat. Questioning if they should eat at all.
Then we have become part of that same society that has made us this way. We have become part of the problem. The only way we can change this is to learn to love and accept ourselves. Believe me, I know this is harder than it sounds. But for our little girls, we have to try to love ourselves. After all, we’ll all be skinny, when we’re dead.If you won’t do it for yourself, think about your daughters. I don’t want for my girls, what I have experienced. I want better. Don’t you?
If you think I am overreacting, think about how many times you have hung your happiness on how skinny or beautiful you looked.