Sadly, most women (myself included) have struggled at some time and on some level with body image and the idea of beauty. The ludicrous and dishonest portrayal of women’s beauty in the media doesn’t help any. None of us are unaffected by these images, however hard we try, and our young daughters, terrifyingly, certainly aren’t.
For me the most poignant aspect of this issue is quite how many women feel (or at some point in their lives have felt) inadequate and anxious about whether they conform to the media-held idea of beauty. I have. Most women I know have. For some this can mean a lifetime of anxiety and struggles with weight and appearance, a distorted view of our own self , even severe eating disorders.
Not everyone is affected to this level, but I defy any ‘western’ woman not to be in some way influenced or affected by beauty and body angst in some form, at some point in her life, as a result of the image of how a “beautiful woman” is supposed to look.
My saviour was health and fitness. I made it my area of expertise. I’m not obsessive about exercise or diet, but I know my stuff, I know I am strong and fit and able, and that gives me my self confidence. I have been no stranger to a distorted or destructive self image, + feel lucky to have arrived at the more balanced healthy place I now occupy. I’ve been there too, and now understanding women’s (and especially, mothers’) bodies and working to make them feel better about them is my passion.
But exercise and healthy eating doesn’t make me look like Cindy Crawford. As Cindy Crawford (utterly brilliantly) once said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford”.
Airbrushing and deception, now THAT has a lot to answer for.
Yes, we KNOW they’re not real. But we’re human and it’s in out faces, every bloody day.
So what’s a normal woman with a few stretch marks and a few more pounds than she thinks she should be carrying to do? Nothing, if she doesn’t want to. And lets’ all leave her be. And if she does want to do something, from working out and eating well to plastic flippin’ surgery, let’s leave her be too. She didn’t just become vain + shallow, she just made a choice to make herself feel better. But please can we stop pretending 1. that these media images are real and 2. that they don’t matter.
Got to go, I’m off to wrap my 5 year old daughter in a media-free cotton wool ball until she’s at least 30…