One afternoon a random woman approached me in the queue in Tesco to ask me if I knew how bad my skin was. She then advised me to use cold water when I wash my face to get rid of the blemishes.
I wish that I could say that I told her where to go with a witty response such as, “at least my skin doesn’t stink like your personality!” however my only response was to gawp at this strange offensive lady and fight back tears while simultaneously silently saying to her: do you not think that I look at my skin every day and want to cry??? We deal with our imperfections and insecurities because it’s easier to keep these frustrations locked inside until somebody makes a comment about that exact weakness which then makes you want to blow your frickin’ brains out and be done with the negativity. The only people who have ever called me fat in my life are all female; the only people who have commented on my bad skin are all female; the only people who have negatively commented on my alternative dress sense are female; I’ve had women in the street approach me to touch my hair and ask me if it was real! (It is by the way!)
I’m not afraid to admit that at the age of 28, although I have my days (usually the day after a run or an intense session of Pilates) when I feel like the ‘buffest ting’ on the block.
However, there are also days when I feel the complete opposite, when I’m looking in the mirror and all I see is contrary to what I saw yesterday.
Self-body image is a daily struggle.
And yet instead of standing united through the struggle, your fellow women become some of your worst enemies against the fight. When did we become one another’s property?
I’ve come to realise that when we dress, we become more concerned with impressing our fellow gender as opposed to the opposite. We may say that we wear certain clothing to attract the attention of men, however I think that we need to be a little bit more honest with ourselves and admit that we can become consumed with impressing our friends, as well as outdoing the outer circle of female acquaintances and spectators in the fashion stakes. Let’s face it: what guy notices that you’re wearing the same dress as another chick at the party?
Only the women will be gawping and gossiping for the rest of the night!
We also become afraid of breaking trend boundaries because we fear the reactions of our peers. She who dares to step outside of the status quo becomes a target of negativity – sometimes passive aggressive and sometimes more so malicious.
When out in the supermarkets, I’m sure you’ve seen the horrendous hordes of women’s magazines and ‘Femail’ across the internet, keeping us up to date on the latest female public shaming within “Celebritydom” – the latest singer to put on too much weight and that TV presenter we used to call fat but has now become too thin or the latest actress to be seen out without makeup and in ‘normal’ clothing which is a cardinal sin in the land of “Celebritydom”! Just recently in the Daily Mail online, Mila Kunis was slated by columnists and fellow females for appearing out in the street without make up and in jogging bottoms (she was out for a stroll with her family AND she only recently had a baby).
Female readers criticised her for looking unkempt, tired, miserable and for wearing too casual clothing. The irony of this is that these same women I’m sure also criticised the Duchess of Cambridge for having the audacity to appear in public, days after giving birth looking too immaculate and refreshed. When did we become such a paradox?
There are rules to conform to however these rules change all the time! How on earth are we expected to keep up – especially when we’re all making the amendments ourselves and therefore contributing to the problems we all face??! Furthermore, these rules only seem to be applicable according to gender. I’m not denying that men also have their struggles – I wouldn’t want to have to compare myself to Michael Fassbender knowing that I’m always going to come up short! However, whereas a man can appear in the Daily Mail online and “look cute in slacks” particularly if he’s simultaneously walking a dog (all together now awwwwwwwwwwwwww) replace that man in the photograph with a woman and the woman becomes a tramp who has let herself go.
As women, we know about the daily struggles of self-body image and yet instead of standing united we’ve become determined to pull each other down so that we can take the podium for ourselves. We are constantly taught to be empowered women and to claim possession of our identity and image, but is it possible to keep a hold on who we are or are we always doomed to having it constantly snatched away so aggressively?
Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter what kind of day you’re having – it could be a buff day or a fat ugly day, somebody could still come and tear you down regardless. Mothers always tell their little girls that the other girls bully them because they are jealous; perhaps there’s more to this idea than words of maternal empowerment.
In her inspirational interview for Cosmopolitan Magazine, Millie Mackintosh (known from the Made In Chelsea reality television series) speaks about her body image journey. Millie has gone from being a reality TV star and being in the limelight for dramas caused by her surroundings to taking control of her life and becoming an inspirational young woman who has completely transformed herself – inside and out. You can have a look at the interview for yourself here:
The interview as a whole is a great read however two questions and her responses to them in particular stood out for me:
“Why do you think people are so quick to judge other people’s bodies on social media?”
Millie’s response: “I think body shaming has become such a thing, and it’s often people that aren’t very happy about their own bodies doing it. It’s become a bit of a trend that we really need to dispel. It’s not healthy, and I think women should be less critical about other women’s bodies: I’m all about positivity.”
“What advice would you give to someone that is struggling with self-acceptance?”
“I would say that you’ve got to love yourself, and love yourself on the inside. Work out that it’s not just about how you’re looking on the outside. It’s really hard because it depends on what someone’s going through, but we all just need to love ourselves a little bit more. Even stuff like changing your body really starts in your mind. The first step is making the decision in your head that you’re going to make those changes within yourself. I think you have to be ready to accept change in your life to improve yourself.”
There you have it – the key is to not look towards others but to look for it within ourselves. People are always going to have their say but the only way we can take control ourselves and our self-image in particular, is to change our mind sets and love ourselves which is why we need to deal with insecurities and face them head on. Change can only come from familiarity and acceptance. At the risk of sounding like a hippie, let love become our armour! As a Christian I am inspired to remember where I have come from and who created me, therefore how can I not celebrate myself and why should anybody have the right to take that away from me?
Millie Mackintosh knows that there will always be haters; however because she loves and celebrates who she is and what she has achieved, she sets an example through her dignified responses to the negativity. She defends herself, while concurrently showing love and compassion because she recognises that there may be underlying issues contributing to reasons why a peer would react to you in such a negative way.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away”. (ESV)
We as women need to embrace these words – now more than ever.
Only then can we be happy within ourselves and therefore enabled to embrace each other and stand united.
What do you think? Have I hit the nail on the head or should I be looking at it from the other side?
I’d love to hear your own stories about your own friendships groups and experiences!
Peace and love