Today, I did something that might seem odd to many: a friend told me I’m beautiful, and I agreed with her statement. The conversation went (word for word) like this:
Me: Number one way you can tell I don’t feel good: I’m not wearing any makeup!
Friend: I don’t think I’ve seen you without makeup on… ever
Me: *Sends a picture of myself sans makeup.*
Friend: Not fair! You look beautiful even with no makeup!
Me: I know! 🙂
Friend: Wow, conceited much? lol
I was floored by her response. Now, in all fairness, she was joking (since typing ‘lol’ means you can get away with saying pretty much anything you want, no matter how mean it may be under the guise of ‘I was just joking.’ lol, right?!)— but there was some truth hidden amidst that response. The truth: it was alright for my friend to tell me I’m beautiful; it was not alright (read: abnormal, conceited, superficial, odd) for me to agree with her.
As women, we are taught to strive for beauty from a young age. We’re given Barbie dolls, we’re handed fashion magazines, and we’re force fed pressure to be beautiful from society. Only those Barbie dolls don’t reflect the real measurements of average women; in fact, if Barbie was based off a real woman’s measurements, she’d need to have at least a few ribs and possibly a couple vital organs removed to come even remotely close (take a gander at Lammily’s normal-sized anti-Barbie or the real-life Barbie Valeria Lukyanova if you have your doubts). And those fashion magazines? They’ve been photoshopped to hell and back (how do they even recognize themselves?!). Oh, if only we could all have every imperfection buffed away and inches shaved off our physiques— in real time. Oh, wait, we can… they’re called filters! Look bad in a picture? It’s simple: use a filter, post it, and soon enough even your best friends and closest family just may forget what you really look like without the help of Hudson or Valencia. And society? Well, society seems to have no idea what a real woman looks like anymore. Magazines are filled with articles about “how to achieve that no-makeup makeup look (seriously… what kind of mindfuck is this? no-makeup makeup?)” and advertisements about MacGyver-style bras crafted from rubber bands and popsicle sticks designed to add two cup sizes (okay, so no rubber bands and/or popsicle sticks are involved, but I’m looking at you, Victoria’s Secret) and praises from Oprah about the pure sorcery that is Spanx Shapewear that sucks you in “in all the right places” so you daren’t wiggle or jiggle or the like (you know, like a human being… love this writeup against Spanx!). But what happens later? What happens when you go home, ditch the bra, take off the Spanx, wash off the makeup… and look in the mirror?
That’s when you really need to think, no— truly believe, you’re beautiful. Because society isn’t the one looking back at you in the mirror— you are. And there’s no makeup, no Spanx, no bras, and no filters; just you, naked (and beautiful!) you. Unfortunately, as women, we’re also taught that self-confidence in just a hop, skip, and a jump away from conceitedness. Have you ever tried to give a woman a compliment? Men, you know what I’m talking about! It’s an exercise in almost pure futility (FYI this hilarious skit shows exactly what I’m talking about! P.S. I don’t condone the video’s use of the word ‘retarded,’ but it illustrates my point nonetheless). The majority of women, when given a compliment, respond with pure awkwardness— most will outright disagree with you, others will downplay your compliment, few will accept it with a meek “thanks,” and even fewer still will wholeheartedly agree with your compliment. Why is this? Because to have that sort of self-confidence is viewed as conceited. Every woman knows “that girl”— oh yeah, you know the one— she’s six foot tall with flowing golden locks and DD breasts with a toothpick waist and a face that looks like it was chiseled from rainbows and unicorns and pink clouds made of glitter into pure perfection. Only “that girl,” she’s also the girl who’s constantly bemoaning her appearance: “oh my God (as she pinches half an inch of skin on her thigh), my thighs are so flabby!” ad infinitum (despite being Roeper’s #1 worst movie of 2004, this clip from White Chicks is exactly what I’m talking about! yes, women, you need to stop the ‘fat talk‘). As a society, we are sent the message: you must always strive to be beautiful, but you must never, ever, not even for one second, actually believe that you are beautiful.
But ask any straight guy out there who they’d rather be on a date with: the girl who is an absolute knockout but has 0 self confidence… or an average-looking girl but carries herself like she’s a 10. Time and time again, they’ll pick the average girl. Why? Because insecurity isn’t an attractive quality, and with every “does this make me look fat?” a woman’s attractiveness whittles away as the annoyance factor increases. There’s a beauty in and of itself of thinking, feeling, and believing you’re beautiful, and no amount of fiddling with a computer can photoshop that into existence. That beauty comes from loving yourself— inside and outside, and, as anyone who has ever been in a relationship (successful or otherwise) knows: you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. As a personal trainer, it’s my job to work with people who want to change their bodies. But wanting to change your body and hating your body are two entirely different things. You don’t have to like your body, but you do have to love it. It’s a fine distinction— one that a lot of people, unfortunately, don’t understand. They mistakenly assume that wanting to lose weight, build muscle, or get in shape must mean that, on some level, you hate your body. But those reps in the gym, those miles on the treadmill, and those calories counted… they can come from you hating your body or they can come from you loving your body. Me? I love myself and I love my body, and I choose to show that by taking care of my body and striving for the best body I can.
When your desire to change yourself comes from a positive place rather than a negative place… believe me, everything falls together! When you’re eating healthier because you want to live longer and be healthier, not because you think you’re a heifer, then that choice to eat healthier comes so much more easily. When you’re working out because you want to run your first 5K or be more active with your children, not because you hate that your thighs touch, then that decision to work out becomes a rewarding one. And when you’re making lifestyle changes because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself, you’re much more likely to stick with those changes long-term since they come from a positive place. My personal experience and professional opinion? If you hate yourself and/or hate your body… you’re doomed to fail no matter what, because people with that sort of inwardly-directed hatred are destined to sabotage themselves.
So, ladies, say it with me: “I’m beautiful.” In your lifetime, the world will spend enough time putting you down— you don’t need to waste your own time by doing it to yourself too. Love yourself. Believe you’re beautiful, because… you are.