For a couple of days I've been in a particular mood, a mood not unknown to me in the least, for I know well what it does to me and how it can be cured, and I also know that it rarely is cured. It's the feeling that nothing about me is good.
Oh snap, she's going to write some hormonal teenage bullshit... Yeah, well, it's on my mind. Bite me.
I don't know how many times I've taken a step back from myself to critique my own body. (see link to article below.) All the hard work to rid my mind of stupid thoughts that I've been doing for so many years gets so easily washed away. It's happened on numerous occasions throughout the years, but more work always needs to be done.
I was thinking it might be because I no longer have a man to tell me I'm beautiful, but that's a crummy reason. I don't think I should be dependent on having a man who tells me what I want to hear just so I may be satisfied with my appearance. Sometimes the man would not remind me of what he thinks of me for a long time anyway.
So, what's the deal?
I just feel unattractive. Everywhere. My face is imperfect. My arms are imperfect. My chest is imperfect. My breasts are imperfect. My back is imperfect. My thighs are imperfect. My abdomen is imperfect. My calves are imperfect. My skin is imperfect. Therefore, I am an inadequate human being and should either remain locked up at home for all of eternity, never venturing out to the world to be among other humans, or simply sent away. I am partly exaggerating. I do feel like all those parts are less than satisfactory but I know that that isn't something that should or would exclude me from the human race in any way. It's absolutely ridiculous, I know, and I should get over it, absolutely, but all the rationalizing in the world has yet to allow me body satisfaction. What would change now?
I was doing well for a long while. I felt confident, I felt unashamed, I felt strong, but then one day that changed back again. I saw someone else, I compared her body to mine and I was disappointed with what I saw in myself. I don't even know if that someone was a real person or just an image I conjured up to torture myself with.
Am I really that bad? Are people lying when they tell me I'm not that bad? Sometimes I feel like they are.
"If she's beautiful, how could I possibly be beautiful too?"
I hope this goes away soon. I'm pretty tired of it. It's like I remembered, all of a sudden, to be self-conscious again because I'm not really as good-looking as I'd been thinking I am. And after all the things I've written about body image...
... Here's the essay I wrote for ENG092:
Due to the portrayal of women in the media, real women are led to believe that the pursuit of happiness is intimately intertwined with the pursuit of a man. It begins with “once-upon-a-times” and “happily-ever-afters” and is followed by the never-ending beautification required to attract and keep a man.
From a very young age, girls are conditioned to view happy endings as when the boy gets the girl. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella are just a few of the many fairy tales most girls love. Princesses by definition are beautiful, kind-hearted, thin, heterosexual, monogamous, single, and patiently waiting for romantic Prince Charming to come riding on his white stallion to sweep them off their feet. Nearly every little girl loves horses, pretty dresses and romance; therefore, it is no wonder so many of them want to be a princess. Once girls have outgrown these stories, they are fed a new kind of story through television programming said to be geared towards teen and preteen girls: the teen drama. Some of these programs include Gossip Girl, the Degrassi series and The Secret Life of the American Teenager, whose main focus is the romantic relationships the characters have with each other on the show. After teen dramas come shows like Cougar Town, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Sex and the City, where the goal of the lead female characters is to snag a man and tie him down. In brief, almost everything in the media geared towards women, from the time they are little girls until they are grey-haired, is about the boy getting the girl.
Perfection, as we all know, is impossible to achieve, yet many women actively pursue it because they think that being perfect is the only way to get a man. According to the media and today’s standards of “perfection,” one needs to have round and perky breasts, thin arms, toned legs and bottom, a pretty face, unblemished and hairless skin, and, most importantly, a small waistline if they want to attract a man. These are also the requirements of being a celebrity. However, celebrities (porn stars and models included) have the means to meet these standards whereas the majority of women in the world do not. Celebrities have the money for cosmetic surgery, the time to exercise 6 hours a day, the expertise of hair stylists and makeup artists at their disposal, the will to eat next to nothing, and the tall, thin body type that only genetics can bestow upon them. Even so, we are constantly surrounded by images of these artificial women and, when viewed, one question in particular frequently comes to mind: Is that how I am supposed to look? It is difficult to assume otherwise and even more so when many men seem to think women who look like supermodels are exceptionally beautiful; for, if they are beautiful, how could a normal woman be beautiful in comparison? Furthermore, in his article titled “The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in the Media,” Greening argues that “[to women,] if every body part is not flawless, then the possibility for beauty is ruined.” He also argues that women and girls “view the body as a ‘work in progress’ or something in constant need of alteration [. . . and. . . ] instead of being satisfied with their body as a whole, they concentrate on what separate entities they lack.” In addition, magazines like YM, Seventeen and Cosmopolitan feed on and encourage the idea of body perfection. With taglines like “25 ways to get the man of your dreams,” “20 ways to sex up your look,” and “What he thinks when he sees you naked,” these magazines are like guidebooks on how to be as beautiful as possible in order to attract members of the opposite sex. In fact, nearly 86% of 12-to 15-year-old girls and almost 56% of 16- to 19-year-old girls read Seventeen magazine, and nearly one third of 16- to 19-year old girls read Cosmopolitan regularly, just to get all the help they can find (Simmons Market Research Bureau 1998). Moreover, according to a rhetorical analysis of YM by Duffy and Gotcher, the magazine creates a world where
“young women must attempt to discern the minds and desires of young men in order to attract them. It is a place where they must costume and beautify themselves to achieve an almost impossible physical beauty ideal. And, it is a place where sexuality is both a means and an objective, where the pursuit of males is almost the sole focus of life.” (32-48)
It is unfair to feed women an unrealistic idea of what a perfect body should look like and offer the cures to one’s normal yet flawed body. It is unfair to reduce a woman’s purpose in life to trying to attract a male. It is unfair to expect a woman to look like a model in a Victoria’s Secret ad because not even the model in the ad looks like that in real life thanks to digital image alteration. Although it can be difficult at times to ignore the messages the media provide us with, it is crucial to remember that happiness is much more than being in a heterosexual relationship. There is more to life than pursuing men by trying to become an inhumanly beautiful and sexy princess, especially since beauty is only skin-deep while true beauty lies much deeper.
“Be sexy, but not a slut. Stand up for yourself, but don’t be a bitch. Be thin, but don’t have an eating disorder. Play sports, but don’t be too aggressive or competitive. Be smart, but not a nerd. Believe in yourself, but don’t be conceited. Speak up, but don’t be too loud or have a big mouth. Be original, but not weird. There are some of the stupid standards people expect from girls and women.
They’ve made this perfect girl that we all strive to be. But we don’t have to fulfill anyone’s sick idealized dream. You DO have the freedom to be what you want to be.” (Brown, Steele, Walsh-Childers, 192)
Brown, J., Steele, J. and Walsh-Childers, K. Sexual Teens, Sexual Media. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. Print.
Duffy, M. and Gotcher, J. M. “Crucial advice on how to get the guy: The rhetorical vision of power and seduction in the teen magazine YM.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, 1996. 20, 32-48. Print.
Greening, Kacey D. “The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in the Media.” Undergraduate Research Community. 5 (2006). Web. 2 June 2010.
Simmons Market Research Bureau, Inc. Simmons Teen-Age Research. New York: Simmons Market Research Bureau, 1998. Print.