Monday, February 27, 2012

I Feel Pretty

For a while I was seeing a trend on Pinterest. Whenever I would check out my friends pins for the day I saw the same themes repeated over and over again.

"Here are all of the exercises I need to do every single say so I can get my ideal weight."

"Look at this girl- isn't her body perfect?"

"I can't wait until I can fit into this outfit."

"I wish I could look like her."

Being healthy is good. Taking care of your body is good. Being in shape is good. However, I felt like things had gotten beyond the idea of "being healthy." (Whatever that is - considering each of us have our own bodies and "healthy" is going to look different for everyone.) The message I was seeing beyond wanting to be "in shape" was..

I am not good enough.



Around the same time one of my blog friends wrote a post about her issues with weight and beauty. How her mother never felt she was thin enough. How she was constantly obsessed with being sure she looked perfect. How it came from a never ending cycle that had been in her family for years. The thing is - if you looked at this girl, you would know that she is drop dead gorgeous. Inside and out.

It's not just about being "thin" though. We've all seen the memes that are along the lines of:

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I understand where these memes are coming from. I get it - I really do. It's encouraging women that they don't have to be sticks to be beautiful. As a girl who is not a stick- I appreciate this. However...

What about that girl who is naturally thin and no matter how much she eats and tries to gain weight people still tell her that she needs to have a sandwich? Is she not a "real woman?"

What about the women in the first meme who are that thin - they aren't beautiful? Who says?

What about the girl who in "supermodel world" would be an ideal height- but is still a teenager and towers over everyone she sees in class and gets made fun of for it?

Because I hate to break it to you - but all women are real women whether they have curves or not. It's not like the skinny girls are just pretending...

Then even beyond weight - there are countless things women want to change about their bodies. White girls get tans to look darker and more exotic while black girls bleech themselves because their complexion is darker than Beyonce's. They dye their hair different colors. Put contacts in their eyes so they have have shades that are more appealing or striking. They get implants or reductions to different parts of their bodies. They freeze their faces with Botox. Today we hear about girls barfing up their lunches so they can be thinner while back in the days of Marilyn Monroe women stuffed themselves to gain weight so they could have her curves. In the late 19th century women were obsessed with bustles because they were comparing their body shape to a woman with "curves" who was in the circus. (Not even joking.)

All of them - and I really do mean ALL OF THEM - tall, short, thin, curvy, whatever you want to call them - want to be seen as beautiful. In the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge they talk about how all women want to be beautiful. It's something that has been in their hearts since childhood.

"Remember twirling skirts? Most little girls go through a season when they will not wear anything if it does not twirl (and it is sparkles, so much the better.) . . . Once dressed, they dance around the house or preen in front of a mirror. Their young hearts intuitively want to know they are lovely.  . . . Verbal or not, whether wearing a shimmery dress or covered in mud, all little girls want to know."

I've been thinking about twirling skirts a lot lately. I teach a small Sunday school class and I have four regular elementary school girls who come every week. The last few weeks they have taken to spinning and twirling around to the worship music as they sing along. They love to show off their skirts and dance moves as they worship. What happened to us when we used to love doing things like that? If I were to go into a room full of adult women and suggested spinning around and dancing - they all would probably look at me like I had three heads. They don't want to look silly.
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Yet, they want to be lovely. They want to be beautiful. I know of some strong young women who are some of my closest friends. When you first meet them, you probably wouldn't think that one of their biggest desires in life is to be beautiful or pretty. Yet, as you get to know their hearts - some of the largest holes is because they haven't been told and showed how pretty and beautiful they truly are.

I'm not just talking about outer beauty where we can fit into our "skinny jeans" or when people compliment us on our new hair style. But a beauty that is far deeper than that.

"We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil." 

It's a beauty that is simply because of who they are. Think about the truly beautiful women in your life. Are they beautiful just because they dress well and have their make-up done well. They are beautiful because there is something inside of them that overflows out of them.

Women want to know that they have an innate loveliness that makes others want to fight for them. To pursue them. To want them.

One of my friends told me she was struggling with this lately. Then yesterday at church the pastor started to talk about when a husband tries to tell his wife she is beautiful as she steps out of the bathroom in the morning. She doesn't believe him.

He tells her again.

Still doesn't believe him.

This goes on, and most men would just give up.

Then the pastor told his congregation - THAT IS HOW GOD SEES YOU. The thing is - he doesn't give up on trying to tell you.

Girls - you are beautiful. Don't forget.

Guys - tell a woman she is beautiful today. Even if she doesn't believe you or you think she doesn't need to be reminded - because she does.

And for laughs... and to kind of prove my point...

Hahahahahahahaha #archaeology

32 comments:

  1. THANK YOU! for writing this. It's so exasperating to hear other women tell me that I need to eat more, as if they have some greater understanding of what I put into my body. I eat plenty, but the judgment from other women remains no matter how much I eat.

    I've been thinking about coming out with my whole story on my blog, but haven't had the courage to do so yet. This may have given me a kick in the right direction. Thank you.

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    1. I can't even imagine what that muse be like. Especially since I know I've done it. Maybe not out loud - but I know there have been times I'll see a girl in passing and think "she needs to eat something." It's horrible, and it's something I need to work on. Because it just makes people even more insecure than they already are.

      And Tsar- you are beautiful! In case you didn't know. I probably don't mention it on your blog often - but I have always thought that you are SO PRETTY and I LOVE LOVE LOVE your style. <3

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  2. YES!!! You share my thoughts EXACTLY. I appreciate loving your body, curvy or otherwise... I think those memes are nothing but destructive to self esteem. My mom was super duper naturally thin - like, nearly unhealthily so. She constantly tried to put on weight with meals, protein drinks, etc. and she never could. Other than that, she was extremely healthy. She was made fun of for being too thin. I LOVE that a lot of Pinterest-ers, bloggers, etc. are showing that women who have curves are g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s, BUT they really are sending out the wrong image to naturally thin girls. Or even girls who have an eating disorder, you know? From what I know, eating disorders are like any other mental illness. It's NOT something you "want" to have. But does that mean, while they are struggling to effing live, they shouldn't be told they are beautiful - while getting the help they need?!

    It's a HUGE issue in my opinion. We need to break that barrier between thin isn't pretty and curvy is. I say this AS a curvy woman. INSIDE, we should say that all is pretty, all of us are gorgeous. This goes for guys too. Not all guys need to tell their girls they are pretty, they need a good handsome thrown their way as well. Most of my old girlfriends years ago thought they were gawgeous, while my guy friends were insecure and hated their bodies and their appearance. I think that's a whole 'nother issue.

    So let's just say - women are beautiful JUST THE WAY THEY ARE, and guys are handsome just the way THEY are.

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    1. I remember when you posted about this issue awhile ago - and I LOVED IT! We need to take care of ourselves, but when does it become an obsession to look "perfect"? So many people need to realize that EVERYONE has issues with their bodies, and we all need to realize how beautiful we are. Guys too! I know they deal with these issues also, I just wasn't sure if as a woman I had the "right" to talk about it? Does that make sense? It would be interesting to hear their point of view. Ha! Maybe that's a good idea for a guest blog! And I completely agree with your comment about eating disorders. It's NOT something people WANT to have. I've had friends who have dealt with eating disorders, and it's not just something they can stop whenever they want.

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  3. Amen to this! There's a reason my Stop Telling Me I'm Too Skinny post has been one of my most popular of all time. Our culture has such a dysfunctional relationship with body weight, period, that somehow telling someone to "eat a sandwich" is more acceptable than telling some to lose some weight. Neither one is helpful or encouraging!

    And saying that curvy is more beautiful than skinny is no better than saying skinny is more beautiful than curvy.

    My hope is that this is similar to what was discussed in the comments of my SAHM post, which is that the pendulum swung from "All women should stay home" to "All women should work or else you're 'wasting' the rights that were won for you" back to something that's not exactly a happy medium but allows for more celebration of differences than we had previously. The conversation is slowly moving away from a "right" or "wrong" decision to "what's best for your family." Similarly, centuries ago being thin was associated with poverty... then it became the ideal... and now we're seeing the pendulum swing back and forth closer to center. And posts like yours are needed to keep that conversation moving forward, so we can have more and more voices saying that there is no ideal or superior body weight, there is only being the healthiest and most comfortable you that you can be.

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    1. I was actually thinking of that post as I wrote this! And yes! We need to stop going to these extremes - and hopefully we are working towards that!

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  4. I see those images a lot on the internet. It's really annoying, actually. We're all good enough, and beautiful. If you're naturally thin, fine. I have several friends who can eat and eat and eat and not gain much weight, and that's cool for them. (One of them has been asked if she's anorexic. Nope.) But it bothers me immensely that girls feel they need to be skin and bones and light as a feather to be considered beautiful.

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    1. It makes me sad too that people feel they have an image to uphold in order to think they are beautiful. Whether it's thin or curvy or whatever. Because you're right, we ARE all good enough.

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  5. I think the issue is beyond weight. There is a fantastic quote that I love by Marianne Williamson:

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

    I think we need to stop putting ourselves down (or putting others down to make ourselves feel better) and just focus on our own progression and see what we can accomplish whether it be related to health and fitness or something else entirely.

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    1. That is a great quote! I'm going to have to remember that one. And you're right, it is about more than weight. I thought I had touched on that, but maybe not as well as I had hoped. But it really is something much deeper.

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  6. I've always gravitated toward girls who sport the natural look. I am really opposed to makeup in most of its forms. I don't think makeup makes a woman look good. Makeup is for clowns. You don't need mascara, or lipstick, or blush or Botox to be beautiful. When I meet a woman who embraces who she is, and doesn't hide behind concealers, I always find her exceptionally beautiful. That quality is more attractive than most other traits...and ladies, I'm not the only one who feels this way. There are plenty of us out there.

    Very good post, Emily. You spoke a lot of truth, and I appreciate everything you said. More people need to understand the issue from this point of view.

    ~Shane

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  7. Gah. Emmy. Why did I write Emily? I knew as soon as I hit the Publish button that something was wrong with that comment. My bad.

    ~Shane

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    1. I don't mind if you call me Emily. I go by either one. :)

      And- ARE YOU ALL LISTENING TO THIS LADIES???????? Here is a GUY saying that he wants you to be YOU! lol.

      I know that I do fall into the trap of wearing make-up and all of that. I try to keep it natural though. The thing is - I used to not wear makeup at all. I don't know what changed, but I wear it now. It's weird. Maybe it's part of the cultural views that we have to wear makeup, have certain clothes, etc to be beautiful. But we are all wonderful in our own skin! Thanks Shane!

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    2. I know, right? You know that I very rarely wear make up. It seems lately though, I need to find need to wear mascara. Nothing else, just mascara. And yes, it is weird to make that shift.

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    3. I think maybe part of it is motivation as well? Like - are we wearing make-up and doing all of these things because we want to impress people and cover up our "flaws?" Or is it just because it's fun? Idk. Something to think about I guess.

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    4. My husband feels the same about make-up as Shane does, as do many of my male friends. On the other hand I know plenty of guys who like make-up, especially if it's part of a woman's style, but they won't scream if she takes it off ;) I guess what it boils down to is women being comfortable in their own skin, and with their own healthy choices about their appearance. So if you like wearing make-up, then that's cool. I look like a clown if I wear anything more than a little mascara so I don't bother much, and that's also cool!

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    5. I agree. I think a lot of it depends on your reasoning behind wearing it.

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    6. I had no idea my comment would generate this much conversation. Happy to see people debating about this! It's all part of raising awareness about what makes true beauty.

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  8. I recently read an article called, "Stop the Skinny Bashing," which was talking about this exact same concept. Trying to tackle the stigma perpetuated by the media, that you have to be thin in order to be desirable, is a good thing, but alienating women who are thin doesn't do anything about what the media perpetuates--it just makes you as bad as that magazine or ad you hate. I definitely struggle with my body image--not as much as I used to, when I decided eating food was lame, because I very much think food is the bomb diggity now--but it's still an issue I have to face some days. As an actor, especially now that I have an agent who is REALLY straight-forward with me about the kinds of jobs my 'type' would be suited for, it hurts sometimes to know that I am automatically 'typed' out of roles that are really great because the creative team wants that character to be a certain size that I am not. Then again, I know it's a part of the business, and I get it, and I've worked in theatre long enough to know that talent and type are not always congruent with one another. I've just found myself becoming so passionate about taking care of younger girls who are just on the cusp of this self image dilemma, because I know how damaging it can be to go through it without anyone to really talk to. I'm starting a girls-only acting class at my studio to talk to them about self respect and confidence and encourage them to be the beautiful and incredible creators of art they were always meant to be.

    And I LOVE SO MUCH that bottom meme you put up. It makes me so happy. :-D We have some of those statues in my grandparents' house, long-breasted and everything.

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    1. Can I give you a hug? The theatre business can be a cruel cruel one. Like you, I understand why and how it all works. Doesn't mean that it doesn't suck though. While theatre and such is about art - it's also not about art which I hate. It's a reality, but I hate it because it puts such pressure on people to try and be a certain way. To be the "perfect" type, you know? But I'm so glad that you are working through your body image issues! It really can be so damaging to someone, and we all need to support each other through it!

      And... I'm glad you liked that final meme. It makes me laugh. I love that your grandparents have those statues.

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  9. This is a brilliant post Emmy. Thanks for writing it :)

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  10. Brilliant! Thank you for posting this!!

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  11. Em, This was awesome and a very good thing to remember. Also, I will spin with you in our skirts any day...Though I do it just for fun anyway and may even buy skirts just for that purpose :)

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  12. What a great post. This something I really needed to read right now. Thank you for posting it :)

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    1. Aw, thanks sweetie! You're beautiful. :)

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  13. Beautiful post from a beautiful person. This was honestly such a pleasure to read. I think you are 100% said right in everything you said, and I am so happy that you chose to also put focus on the whole "real women have curves, or real women have x, y and z"-issue, because that just doesn't help at all.

    Lots of love from me!

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