Monday, March 19, 2012
Like many teenage girls, I went through a phase where I valued myself based upon the perceptions of others. You probably never would have guessed this by looking at me, since I've never been the type to wear designer clothes, style my hair, or put on makeup. But I still obsessed over my appearance, bizarrely and inexplicably.
I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. I preened, examined myself from every angle, and harshly judged my features. Deciding that my symmetrical face would be perfect with a narrower nose and less of a chin, I considered the ways I could position myself to minimize the appearances of these things to onlookers. My clothing had to emphasize my (minuscule) cleavage and hide my "poochy belly." The perfect jeans would give me long legs and a booty without a muffin top. (These jeans do not exist, for the record.)
Although I didn't see it at the time, I looked fine. I was a perfectly normal, healthy teenage girl. But my self esteem was in the dumps.
This isn't so surprising, given the media environment in which I dwelled. I read a lot of urban fantasy, and the heroines were always beautiful and desirable. In my video games, women never came with less than a d-cup or more clothing than would be worn at a beach. Movies are populated with nerdy girls who let down their hair, lose the glasses, and suddenly become worthy of love. In short, any young woman who's worth anything is beautiful.
These things are considered escapist fantasy for adults. We want to be gorgeous, sexy, and unrealistic. Heroes are larger than life in every way possible.
But for a teenager desperately seeking self-identity, these mostly served as models for disappointing comparisons.
Fortunately, I've reached an age where I don't really care what people think anymore. I have mom hair. I've been known to wear brightly patterned socks with ballet flats. The only time I look in a mirror is to show my baby his reflection, which he thinks is hilarious.
It's surreal looking at pictures of myself in my awkward, desperate-to-please teenage years. I guess I probably looked better then than I do now, objectively speaking. I had a better figure, anyway. (My tummy is best described these days as "doughy," but that's a proud mark of having grown a GIGANTIC BABY in it.) But I'm much happier and more confident now, and that shows with a whole different kind of radiance. I feel much more beautiful even if I'm still mismatched and awkward.
I'm not really sure what I'm getting at with this line of thought. Mostly, I wonder why we live in a world where advertisements, books, TV shows, movies, and everything else shouts about how a young woman's value is tied up in her beauty. What is this telling our daughters? Our friends? Our sisters? Just as importantly, what is this telling young men about how they should treat young women?
So I guess what I want to say is, I'm happy the way I am. I hope you're all happy the way you are, too, because you're perfect.
Have an awesome week. :)