It’s your differences that make you unique and beautiful not how well you fit a prescribed standard of beauty. Shefinds.com, an online shopping guide, clearly missed this point and the results made me fume!
I subscribe to all kinds of online fashion newsletters to keep up with what’s going on in the world of fashion. Recently, I saw a message from shefinds.com entitled, “H&M’s Huge Facebook Mistake.” Their marketing is brilliant and I was hooked. I couldn’t click to the site fast enough to read more.
When I went to the website, the title of the article was, “Is It Just Us or Did H&M Seriously Botch This Poor Girl’s Legs In Photoshop?” My sensitivity antennae was immediately activated and I kept reading. They start by saying, “Look closely–the right leg of the model seems to be awkwardly turned inward.” They go on adding, “….the model could be a little bow-legged, in which case: that’s awesome. It’s good to see beautiful women with real imperfections in advertising! Not everyone can wake up FLAWLESS like Beyoncé.”
At first read you might think, yeah, you’re right. Let’s see more real women in advertising. But then, the subtle message comes through. On one hand they are saying that showing “real imperfections” is “awesome.” And, on the other hand they are saying that if she has “real imperfections” then her body looks “botched” and flawed and they pity that “poor girl.”
Given the line of work I’m in, and my own personal experience growing up, I am extremely sensitive to this kind of talk. The ramifications are insidious. The more we hear the message that our bodies are botched and imperfect, the more we internalize that and believe it. Every day I hear women speak harshly about their own bodies. If, like most of the women I work with, I ask you what you don’t like about how you look, I suspect you can spout an endless torrent of reasons you aren’t happy with your body. If I ask you what you like, the list dwindles dramatically.
The last thing you need is someone else cheering you on and at the same time telling you that your body doesn’t meet the standards that are prescribed by…by whom!? Celebrities? The media? Their idea of perfect beauty ultimately infiltrates society so we finally (even after resisting) get the message that there is something wrong with us. But, they add, yay, poor girl, we admire your willingness to venture out into the world, flaws and all.
The impact goes way beyond this article and is exactly why my virtual program has an entire chapter on hurtful comments and unwanted advice. These messages affect you at a deep, soulful level and eventually it is hard to resist and you unwillingly buy into their destructive message.
Although I think Shefinds was well-intentioned, this type of article comes in the guise of supporting women when, except for the most self-confident woman, it actually undermines their self-acceptance. I know this not only from my work with thousands of women, but also from my own personal experience. I have spent years coming to terms with the fact that I have knocked knees. My legs are different from other women in real life and in magazines. As a teenager I would sit on the beach with my friends and watch all the women walking by comparing my legs to theirs and looking for someone else who had crooked legs as she walked confidently along the beach. I never saw one which made me feel even more sensitive about my legs. Finally, years later, I have made peace with them despite the fact that the author of the H&M article considers them imperfect, botched and flawed.
Shefinds might believe Beyoncé to be flawless, but what would the world be like if we all looked like Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus or whomever the media has chosen as their latest obsession? Boring, that’s what. It is your uniqueness that makes you special and not how much you are the same as everyone else or how well you fit society’s vision of beauty. Finding your own personal vision of beauty is the key to feeling personal satisfaction with how you show up in the world.
Use these two steps to move you closer to that personal goal:
- Find one part of your body that isn’t your favorite–that you wish, because of articles like these, was more like what you think it’s supposed to look like rather than how it is. Maybe, like me, it’s your legs. Or perhaps your waist, hips, shoulders, bustline or arms. Choose just one.
- Change your perspective. Find something great about this part of your body. For instance, my legs might be crooked, but they are long and that’s what I dress for every day. For you, maybe you always feel like your hips are too big. But perhaps, as a result (these two things often go hand in hand) you have a small waist. When you wear something that shows off your waist and your hips you feel curvy and feminine. Or, maybe you feel flat chested and like your body is shapeless. But then you realize that this allows you to add curves with your clothes and easily wear something strapless or with ruffles, ruching or patterns on your chest without worrying about appearing top heavy.
It is important to note that there is always a positive result to be found. Find yours and celebrate it. I invite you to share your awarenesses in a comment below to celebrate your natural beauty and inspire other women to find their unique beauty, too.
And, if you want help dressing your body so you feel great, get a copy of my body image, self-esteem and style handbook and virtual program: www.whotaughtyouhowtodress.com