I have an ex-girlfriend who had body image issues. I remember one night on the couch, in the midst of severe depression, she was tugging on the “fat” in her arm. She was obsessed with it. She wouldn’t look away from it. She just lay there, staring and tugging, staring and tugging, ignoring my every attempt to remind her she was beautiful, even rejecting me when I tried to convince her of the truth.
There was nothing there. There was no fat. There was no real problem. The problem was in her head. We were both on the couch feeling helpless. She felt helpless because she could not get rid of the “fat” in her arm; I felt helpless because I could not convince and remind her that she really was beautiful and there was no fat to obsess over.
It’s common for women to feel this way. Unless you are a woman who has had body image issues, it is easy to forget how common it is. In reality, one in 200 women suffer from anorexia. Just as scary, 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight. It is frightening and unnerving when you consider that these issues begin in girls so young and that their consequences are often so deadly. Twenty percent of people suffering anorexia prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.
The opposite side to the above story about my ex-girlfriend is this: she was incredibly narcissistic. I’ll sum it up by paraphrasing something she once said to me: “No matter where I go, I’m always the most beautiful girl in the room.”
A normal reaction to the above quote is an eye roll.
We recognize the sadness and fragility of a person who is suffering from such emotional damage that they feel valueless because they don’t believe their body image is up to society’s standards. We also recognize the absolute reprehensible nature in a person who no matter what, believes they are aesthetically superior to anyone, anywhere.
Either way, what both extremes suggest, is a strong fixation and obsession with self-image, with a self-imposed requirement to adhering to society’s standards of beauty and with being accepted because of physical appearance.
I’m not going to write that you should not care about being physically beautiful. You should. It seems to be an inevitable desire of humans, but we should also recognize mediocrity in it. We only screw up when we go to one extreme or the other. I would like to find something clever to say right now, but one of the most absolute annoying clichés I have ever heard is just so fitting: it’s what’s on the inside that counts, not what’s on the outside.
For anyone assuming that beauty is all that gets you there, remember: you can’t just be beautiful and end it there. You need to bring more to the table. Don’t show up and expect to be let in the door just because you are fortunate enough to have the right genetic code and store-bought makeup so that most guys will drool over you. And don’t think that because you are not as beautiful as the girl who spent five hours getting ready this morning that you are any less valuable.
What is most impressive is that you worked at something in life, that you have tried. Show people you have put in the work, that you have succeeded and that you have failed and gotten back on the horse. We want to see what you have learned, not that you managed to dress yourself in the morning.
I have met women who know of these problems, recognize the polarities involved, but instead of fixing the problem they aggravate them. Some of these women complain about the societal pressures imposed upon them by advertising, models, television, movies, etc., then continue to dress in the way they feel they are being pressured to, which not just perpetuates the problem, but makes it harder for women who do want to do something about the problem. Don’t wear a miniskirt and tube top and complain that you’re being objectified by men.
If you don’t like it, don’t be a part of it. I’m not going to change the world by being a vegetarian, but I’m also not partaking in a system I disagree with. Confidence is sexy, not half a pound of makeup on your face, or being so skinny your bones are visible through your shirt.
I know. It’s hard. It’s hard to abandon and throw free the shackles imposed upon you by our judgmental and narcissistic society, but you must. If you are content with being materialistic, then live that unfulfilled life, but if you know there is more to life and love than how much better your ass looks in that dress than the other girls in the room you’re jealous of, then liberate yourself. Never settle for just being hot.
Look beautiful, feel beautiful, be beautiful, but don’t stop there and don’t rely solely upon that external shell and makeup. I can’t tell you what is going to work, but I can tell you that if you rely solely upon your physical beauty you won’t find anything truly and intrinsically meaningful.
You can’t date someone unless you are physically attracted to them, but that foundation is not the end point. I don’t know what that end point is, but it’s not your fucking lipstick. The endpoint is not having the best abs; it’s not having hair with the most volume and bounce, and it is definitely not about being the thinnest woman in the room.
Have some substance, fearlessly and vehemently be yourself, then patiently wait for what will inevitably come. If you are only beautiful on the outside, you are a spy who will inevitably get caught. If you are genuine and respectful on the inside, you are a wonderful person who will inevitably get caught.
Liberate yourself by being yourself.