You read that right -- lower standards. None of this unrealistic (and unhealthy) thigh gap, artificial, Dorito-colored tan and breasts filled with silicone crap. It's time to lower the bar to an attainable height.
This isn't coming from a professional. This is coming from me, an average sized 20-something with experience in despising my body, having spent too much time being embarrassed of it rather than changing it -- or rather, changing how I define beauty.
I am 5'5" and weigh about 150 pounds -- not fat, not skinny. My thighs sway when I walk on the beach in a bikini. I barely have enough boobs to keep a strapless top up. My legs are covered in bruises and scars from years of soccer and rugby. My abs are concealed under a layer of tummy.
But you know what? After years of battling low self-esteem, I am finally content with how I look -- happy even. I am confident, and if someone thinks I shouldn't be, then they can kindly f*ck off.
And that is what more young girls today need to hear. They need to observe today's 20-somethings being content with the bodies we have. We need to set an example for them, not drive home the idea that all women should look like a Barbie. We need to adjust their image of beauty, their image of self. To make them understand that the media does not define beauty.
They need to hear these things from real women. So how do we approach this, how do we attain a positive self-image in spite of everything attempting to tell us that perfection equals beauty?
- We learn to be happy with who we are internally before accepting ourselves externally. (Yes, I am aware that sounds like a load of psychological crap.) But this is huge, really. I promise. I was the master of turning on the confidence on the outside, when on the inside I was eating myself alive because I wasn't happy with life as a whole. Sure, this was mostly during my drinking, but my drinking may be someone else's relationship problem, another person's depression and so on. Everyone has that thing that makes them tick and until that is resolved, it's difficult to be content.
- If we don't like something, we need to take action. B*tching and moaning will only get us so far, not to mention set a bad example for younger girls. If we want to be more fit, get our butts to the gym. If we want to eat better food, stop buying crap. It's both as simple and as difficult as that.
- We need to do it for ourselves -- not for husbands, boyfriends or the opposite sex in general. Sure, it feels fantastic to be appealing to them. But if you do something for someone else, it likely won't last or as mean as much. Guys are great, feeling sexy is great -- but do yourself a favor and do it for you.
- Don't dress how you feel, dress how you want to feel. What I mean is this: If we wake up feeling crappy and unattractive (and we all have those days), we shouldn't just say screw it and throw on sweats. If we do, we'll just feel even worse later in the day. Put in some effort to look presentable, and feeling like it will likely follow.
- Remember that men struggle too (while keeping in mind #3). Women seem to have this idea that all men desire a model brimming over with sex appeal, and that's not always the case. Think about it -- that's not what we expect from men, so why would that be what they expect from us? Many guys like when women have a little something to them, when they take care of their bodies but aren't a stick figure. Being a confident person is a turn on.
- We need to strive for healthy, not skinny. There is a difference. Of course the preferred option would be healthy and skinny, but not everyone is born with the ability to constantly diet and live at the gym in exchange for that perfect body. Healthy looks different on different body types, and women (hell, men too) need to realize this.
The bottom line is that the idea of beauty will never evolve unless we force it to by teaching younger girls that they can pave their own way. So yes, this is one aspect of life where women would do well to set lower standards -- the hope being that higher self-esteem follows.