I love being a woman. In particular, I love the process involved when getting ready for a night out and can often spend hours excitedly deciding on what to wear, carefully applying my make up, straightening or curling my hair, adding accessories, choosing shoes that look beautiful (and will undoubtedly make me lose the feeling in my feet and give me back ache after about half an hour). I do this solely for myself – I like to leave house before meeting my friends or with The Bloke feeling good about myself and my appearance. Those nights are special, a break from the daily grind of normal life and I think that occasionally it’s an uplifting experience to spend a little bit of time pampering myself after working hard all week and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. However, most of the time I dress very similarly to the teenage boys that I teach every day – spending the majority of my time outside of work in sweats, hoodies and jammies with my hair tied back and no make up. I make no apologies for this – I have a stressful job and seem to spend a large amount of my time feeling tired and anxious and I take comfort every evening changing out of my suits and putting on something cosy. When I meet friends for a quick drink in the pub or go to the cinema with The Bloke, this is how I usually present myself, sometimes swapping my sweats for a pair of jeans.
When watching television last night, it occurred to me how many advertisements appeared in a very short space of time that were designed to ‘help’ women address the things that are deemed to be wrong with their bodies – dull, lifeless skin, bags and dark circles under the eyes, tired eyes, small eyelashes, thin lips, limp hair, frizzy hair, dry hair, hairy legs, hairy faces and endless workout videos designed to assist us in weight loss or the development of abs and curves.
It made me look at myself and think about all of the the things on my own body that were highlighted in those adverts and that I am insecure about. After gaining 60lbs in the last five years I don’t have a flat stomach (sporting more of a keg than a six pack), I have a large bottom and thighs, I have my father’s large chin, a pointy nose, my skin is oily in some parts and dry in others… I could go on forever. I took the opportunity to ask some of my female friends what they would change about themselves if they could, and the results were extensive:
- Eyes too small
- Small eyelashes
- No waist – flat shape
- Flat bottom
- Bottom too big
- Too skinny
- Hair too thick
- Hair too thin
- Boobs too small
- Boobs too big
- Too tall
- Too short
- Skin too pale
It’s no wonder that last year the beauty industry in the UK employed more than one million people and was worth £17 billion. However, it isn’t wrong to want to make the best of ourselves. It isn’t wrong to want to spend time making ourselves look and feel good. It isn’t wrong to go to the gym, wear make up, dress in a certain style and regularly visit the hairdressers, as long as this is what makes you happy and helps you maintain a positive lifestyle. Nevertheless, I am always concerned when women (and indeed, men) are doing this for the benefit of others and stop liking themselves and their bodies when they do not match the so-called beauty ‘ideals.’.
Why do we feel that we aren’t good enough the way that we are? Who creates the rules that tell us how our bodies should look?
We could blame the beauty industry. We could blame the magazines, the media, the fashion designers. We could blame the film industry, the actresses, the models. However, I think that, as women, the only people that we can blame for our insecurities are ourselves. Instead of celebrating who we are and how we are made, we allow others to dictate what the ideal of ‘beautiful’ is.
In the spirit of maintaining a positive outlook for 2015, I took the opportunity to look at my body and highlight all the things that I am grateful for:
1. The ‘Barnes’ hips. All of the women – my mother, my two sisters and I – on my mother’s side of the family have large, childbearing hips that we inherited from my grandmother, whose maiden name was Barnes. While one of my sisters has desperately tried to get rid of hers over the years by going to the gym six times a week, she has now accepted that the Barnes hips is part of her genetic make up and a link to her ancestry, and I’m proud that we all share the same shape – it’s probably the only thing that we all have in common.
2. My eyes. I have inherited my mother’s blue eyes and they are usually the thing that is commented on the most when meeting new people.
3. My slightly curved fourth toe. While some may balk at this and suggest getting it straightened, this is another feature that I have inherited from my mother and her father and over the years I have become quite fond of it.
4. Strong legs. After years of participating in sporting teams as a teenager, my legs have always maintained their strength with small definition in my lower calves, even when I have put on weight.
5. My shoulders. I swam for years and consequently have wide shoulders that look good in halter-neck tops.
6. My ears. They aren’t too big or too small for the shape of my face, and I occasionally like to wear drop earings to accentuate them.
7. My hands. I have always been told that I have perfect piano players hands with long, thin fingers, and even though my nails could use a bit of work (it’s impossible to maintain manicures when working as a teacher) I like the way that they look when I wear simple, silver rings.
Remember, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love… yourself.
For the New Year, I am issuing you with a challenge. Instead of thinking about all of the things that make you unhappy about yourselves, I would like to to focus on something that you like about your body, and post it in the comments below.
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks
Image Credit 1: bobchoat.com
Image Credit 2: beauteousliving13.wordpress.com