beauty is in the eye of the situation part II

I was chatting the other day with some women of a couple of different generations about this whole body image shemozzle. And we discovered just how important a person’s first encounter with their body image is.

We were discussing cosmetic surgery and negative influences in the media (I wonder who we were talking about…) wondering whether these people truly are having a bad impact on girls’ self esteem. I believe self esteem is an inner element of a person: it doesn’t really have anything to do with what we look like at the end of the day. As teenage girls, something happens in our brain chemistry that makes us terrified of standing out, terrified of being wrong or looking wrong and being rejected from the pack. It’s ok. But it’s part of our chemistry and very hard to rewire. So I think that no matter what we’re seeing in social media/in the news/on TV, it’s hard to avoid these feelings. I think that it is important for those close to us to be sending the right messages, far more important than distant reality tv stars and models who pop up on our phones every day. One of the ladies I was discussing this with told us a story of how her family always complimented her for having ‘big legs’. She was super proud of them, and that was communicated to her early, and reinforced year after year. It wasn’t until she was at college and her friend was crying at the thought of having big legs that she even questioned the beauty of such a feature. So like I said last time I wrote about this, it is our situation, our direct surroundings, our family and friends and the culture they create that influence our ideas of beauty and of our own beauty.

My first encounter with my body image was other girls at school telling me I was skinny, telling me they were jealous, that they wished they looked like me. I didn’t even know I was skinny until I was told by my peers. From that very first encounter all the way through high school, I associated ‘skinny’ with guilt. Because I wasn’t told that I was elegant or beautiful because I was slender, but I was told that I made girls feel bad about themselves because I was slender. And I think that was really damaging for me, in all honesty. It made me hyper sensitive to comparison, made me uncomfortable with the way I looked because I associated it with the negative feeling of guilt.

I guess my point is that in those early, formative years it’s so important that young girls have people around them that reinforce the true meaning of the word ‘beautiful’ and ensure that their body/face/features aren’t associated with negativity in any way. I really believe that before any of the negative nancy’s get to your daughters/sisters/friends, you need to get to them and make sure that body image is as positive an experience as it can be for a young girl. Like I said in my last post about my eye bags, it only takes one person to say they like something about you for your stance on that feature to shift. If it’s the first comment made about something even better.

That’s all I have to say about that at this point. But I can’t promise I won’t have more later! :S

XXX

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3 thoughts on “beauty is in the eye of the situation part II

  1. Another great read! Something I’d like to add…Your recollection of being called skinny and associating it with guilt reminds me of my experience with colourism. Among Africans, I was always referred to as light skinned and this was reinforced as a good thing, the thing that made me attractive. Then I got a bit older and realized I wasn’t actually light skinned at all–this trait was relative. To the majority of the world and even among black people, I am actually dark skinned. It’s something that was very difficult to overcome mentally because losing that trait meant losing my prescribed attractiveness. I still deal with that insecurity a lot and try to use my artwork to overcome it.

    Anyway, your post made me think on it and was another great reminder that we have the power to define our own beauty standards for ourselves.

    xx
    Ojo
    (www.ojoagi.com)

    Like

    1. I love this! Thank you for sharing. It makes you realise how much power we have over those around us and their perception of their own beauty. It’s dangerous when we start defining our beauty by comparing ourselves to those around us, because our surroundings are always shifting. I guess the way around it is to say things like ‘you have beautiful skin’ or ‘a beautiful figure’ without attaching that to a specific colour/size/trait. Because you can’t compare ‘beautiful’ but you can compare things like colour. I hope you find beauty in your individuality because that’s where it truly lies! Xxxxxx

      Like

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