This is going to be a bit of a rant, but with everything that’s going on in the world, I don’t think my tiny little voice will matter much. However, I have always found that blogging makes me feel somewhat better. As someone with mental health training, I recommend journaling to any of my clients. Blogging, I think, is much like journaling.
In the last week or so, I have been stirred by the double-standards that I continue to see among men and women. Politics is taking on much of the same characteristics. The middle ground is being lost while extremes on one side or the other are seen as acceptable.
This post is going to be about body image and attraction. So, if this isn’t something you want to read, then I won’t be offended. Here goes…
I am a curvy woman. I will never be a stick figure. Even when I was at my lowest weight, I still had curves. So, being compared or trying to measure up to swimsuit models and everything else society throws at me is a little overwhelming at times. Many people ask me why my appearance matters to me. Well, for obvious reasons it does. Whether you want to hear it or not, the package attracts. I tell my students this all of the time. What happens when too much emphasis is placed on outward appearance? The answer to that is you disorders like anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder, gender dysphoria, and a host of other mental health problems. Those issues have a direct effect on interpersonal relationships.
As a young girl, popular media showed me what was expected of me. I needed to be beautiful, smart, desirable, and fit into a mold. This perception didn’t just come from what men wanted. Rather it was driven home by women in my life; peers. We have been told by the masses that we, as women, should hold one another up and rejoice in each other’s accomplishments. While I believe that is something we should most definitely do, we have been trained to devour each other. We have been taught to push one another down to rise to the top. Is that right? No, it isn’t. Is it reality? Unfortunately, yes.
All of my life I have tried to fit a certain standard because it was expected of me. As a result, I was anorexic. I suffered from body image issues and low self esteem. I have had to struggle all of my life to be attractive enough, skinny enough, nice enough, smart enough, good enough. It is exhausting! This week it came to a head for me. This isn’t the first time I’ve reach a boiling point on this subject, nonetheless.
On Facebook (I know. There’s the first problem), there is a feature that allows me to like pages that others have liked. I happened to see a page of a half-naked chic who had been liked by MANY of my male mutual friends. Seriously though, who could blame them? This girl was a famous Sport Illustrated swim suit model. Tongues wagging and pants tight, of course men are going to click the “like” button. Still, it pissed me off because I thought, “Here we go. And people wonder why women feel like garbage about themselves.” Even though this situation shouldn’t have triggered me, it did. It went through me. The mantra played inside my mind: “You’ll never measure up to that. You’ll never be that. So, that means that you are unattractive and undesirable.” Those self-defeating messages have been thrown at us, both men and women, since we were children: If you don’t fall into this category, you’re worthless. I get that it’s a free country, and we are allowed to be attracted to whoever we want, but holding each other to this unrealistic standard is not helping anyone. In fact it’s damaging. It’s kind of like porn. Porn is not real. It doesn’t accurately represent healthy, sexual relationships. Nevertheless, young people who aren’t being educated otherwise will embrace the fiction of porn as truth, and they may perpetuate that onto their partner at some time or another.
Science tells us that there are certain features that we find attractive. As a species, we tend to like symmetrical features. With that said, I think that media stereotypes drive what we find attractive. For example, there are paintings from various points in history featuring women who have some meat on their bones. At that time, women who were curvy were seen as attractive. In today’s society it seems that the thinner you are, the more desirable you are. Evolutionary theorist would heartily disagree with that. Still, media seems to drive everything, taking away our ability to think for ourselves.
Another feature that has always been desirable are big breasts. Those breasts have to be perky and just right, otherwise, according to media, they are not desirable. Full, implant grade breasts are preferred over all else. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $10,000 to get a boob job.
So, when you start to feel the insecurity settle into your mind, and bring that to someone’s attention, and you are dismissed or told, “No, that’s not what I want.” My question to that is: Then why do you idolize individuals who fit that description? That goes for both genders.
I detest body shaming. I do believe we should be seeking out health above all else, but I don’t think anyone has the right to shame someone for not fitting the universal standard of perceived excellence.
I also understand this involves unrealistic standards for both men and woman. I know females aren’t the only ones who are impacted by it. So what do we do when we go down the rabbit hole? I wish I knew the answer. I think it’s about fighting the good fight. Some days are going to be worse than others. I also think it’s about accepting each other without trying to set the bar so high that we are set up to fail.