September 1st, 2016 | Brianne Addison
If your adolescence was anything like mine, you spent a good amount of time questioning the body you’d been given. Awkward skinny legs jutting out from undeveloped hips, bra sizes increasing out of nowhere, and acne breaking out all over your once perfectly clear complexion. Adolescent years are tough for both boys and girls alike. Even the most adorable pre-teens think themselves atrocious and usually shy away from the camera in order to skulk in some corner or another. Though I’ve tried to block out most of my painfully awkward adolescence (as we all do) I cannot help remembering certain emotions that I felt during this very delicate and impressionable time in my life. I cannot speak on the behalf of young men, as I have no personal insight into what it must be like to go through adolescence as a male. I do, however, have a voice as a woman, having gone through my own metamorphosis. Now, as an adult, I am able to think back upon what lessons I’ve learned about women’s’ relationships with their bodies.
Women are not taught enough to love their natural selves. Let me repeat that. Women are not taught- not at the young, impressionable age of eleven, nor at the delicate age of eighteen- to love their natural selves.
At the age 23, I am just coming around to a little thing called self-acceptance. I am not talking about the mental type of self-acceptance, though it does tie in. I am speaking purely of physical self-acceptance, the ability to look in the mirror and say “I am divine.” Does that sound conceited? Good.
I’ve yet to witness a woman who can simply take a compliment. The compliment is always followed by immense blushing, stifling discomfort, and a feast of denial. As women, we always feel obliged to let our flatterer know that we are not so self-absorbed. We cannot possibly receive a compliment about our hair, our eyes, or skin, and so on, without a host of vivacious responses such as, “What? No, my hair’s so dry” or “You’re crazy, my eyes have bags under them!” or the classic, “My skin’s only nice because of XYZ”. It seems that most women are simply incapable of receiving a compliment without putting up a wall of defense. Even if the compliment does flatter us (it often does), it is still second nature to evade flattery.
So why have women built a solid, brick wall to deter direct compliments? I believe it has something to do with those pesky adolescent years.
Quite often, I’ve witnessed a familiar scenario: a mother and a daughter bra shopping together. Though the girl’s chest may suggest otherwise, her mental state is saying that she’s not ready to wear a bra. The mother’s response is to tell her that she has no choice because her chest is developing and it’s time to wear a bra. BAM! The first brick has been laid for the wall of defensive reflex. Many mothers decide for their daughters when it is time to wear a bra. Instead of waiting for their daughters to feel ready to wear one, they take them to the bra store, have them measured, and pick out a piece of clothing that will ultimately “hold them together” for the rest of their lives. There comes a time when every girl is curious about bra wearing, but to tell a young girl that she must wear the funny looking contraption (to tell any adult woman that she must wear one) is to tell her that there is something off about her natural body. As if adolescent girls weren’t already uncomfortable enough in their own skin, to begin with.
As girls develop into young adults, naturally they are surrounded by other women (friends and peers) who are also evolving. This is when girls realize, perhaps for the first time, that they and their friends no longer look quite the same. It is natural to compare oneself with one’s friends, but this comparison has a nasty of habit of toppling over into obsession or even envy. If envy is not checked soon after it has materialized, it runs the risk of following women into adulthood. I’m talking post-high school and even post-college. Envy usually goes hand in hand with feelings of inferiority and the duo can be crippling to a woman’s psyche. If a woman does not think she is beautiful- if she cannot accept a compliment without defense- then she is living half a life.
Society does not do much in the way of helping women love their natural selves. Far too many ladies think imbeciles, like the Kardashian clan, or Nicki Minaj, to be symbols of beauty just because they have huge (cough…cough…fake…) behinds. Too many women believe they are less-than-perfect simply because large asses are suddenly in style, and perhaps they have a teeny-tiny, little rear end. A few years ago, it was the complete opposite, and women everywhere flocked to slim that booty down! God forbid your boyfriend told you your butt looked big … now God forbid he tells you it doesn’t! The point I’m trying to make is that all butts are beautiful. All bodies are beautiful. To base beauty off of a stupid fad created by the corrupt media who bases their stories off of idiots (who pay for tons of surgery) is ridiculous.
I am not saying that every single woman wants to fashion her body after Jennifer Lopez or Beyoncé, but even for those who have accepted their butt to hip to breast ratio, there are still always beauty commercials to bring their attention back to what needs fixing.
Beauty commercials are the worst. It is impossible to watch TV anymore without some celebrity or super peppy, white teethed woman trying to sell you a hair dye to cover up those horrible gray hairs of yours as if aging were an embarrassment. How dare you have gray hairs, shame on you! In the same category are anti-aging creams, which you simply need to put on before bed, because God knows you don’t want wrinkles telling of your age and your wisdom. No one can know that you’ve walked the earth for 50+ years and have stories to tell.
Scattered in between the anti-aging and hair dying commercials are a host of cosmetic ads meant to encourage you to buy lipstick / eyeliner / eyeshadow/ mascara / blah-blah-blah, to enhance your natural look. While makeup can certainly be fun, and it is nice to doll-up from time to time, the amount of ads catering to the cosmetic industry is staggering.
Unfortunately, many women fall victim to these kinds of commercials. Just watch a makeup tutorial on Youtube. A lot of them are supposed to be ‘Daily Makeup Routines’, but the amount of makeup these Youtube women put on, just to go to class or work, is astounding! Just when you think they’ve finished applying the last layer of foundation, surprise! There’s still a ton of bronzer waiting. Who can blame them, really? With makeup ads everywhere and the enormous cosmetics and creams section when you walk into any store, it is easy to get sucked into believing one needs all of these products. Walk down any cosmetics aisle in Target and you’ll find pictures of stunning women staring down at you, advertising familiar brand-name labels. The intention is to make you believe that you too can look just as fresh and charming if only you buy this new and improved brand of coverup. I hate to say it, but those women are photoshopped, as are the women on commercials, as well as people like the Kardashians and other ridiculously worshiped celebrities.
Women need to liberate themselves from years of conditioning and embrace their natural selves. Just for one day, forget the bra, the makeup, the hairspray, the flattening iron, the nail polish, the deodorant, and the curling iron and go outside into nature – even your backyard will do. Revel in how it feels not to have smeared stuff on your face, or singed off your hair, or worry about what you smell like or how your nails look.
I know how difficult it can be to break the habitual pattern of getting up, doing hair, putting on makeup, and then never really liking what you see in the mirror anyway since you are too busy comparing yourself to the model-type girl in your bio class. This is just an example. Here’s the thing to understand, though, there will ALWAYS- and I mean always- be someone out there more attractive than you. There will always be someone with a better nose, longer legs, a bigger butt, bigger breasts, shinier hair, whiter teeth, and a cuter smile than you, and no amount of tweaking – by makeup, hair products, or even plastic surgery – will change this. You are who you are.
Of course, there are some great ways to make yourself feel more beautiful and it starts from the inside out. A healthy woman is a beautiful woman. The first step is allowing yourself to find beauty while naked, meaning while you are stripped of any makeup or products whatsoever. The second step is to develop a healthy diet. Drink plenty of water, get enough sleep, eat your fruits and veggies, yadda yadda yadda, everyone knows the drill by now, but it’s true because it works.
Your natural self might be a foreign country to you, and that’s OK. Get to know it. Take bubble baths, dab rose water on your wrists, rub coconut oil on your scalp, spray lavender all over your being … just a few suggestions. Little by little, strip away the layers of makeup, straighten/blowdry/curl your hair less and less, cease dying your hair altogether and see what happens; baby steps. The goal is that you will eventually begin accepting your natural self.
A lighter beauty routine may also mean you can focus that time and energy on other things you like to do, like reading, exercising, cleaning, or just sitting and relaxing. When I cut down my beauty routine, I realized how much more time I had to simply sit and relax before going out somewhere like a bar or to a class. You know how we tend to say that men have it so easy? They just put on a shirt and pants and out the door, they go, while we women have to pick out our outfits and put on makeup, which can take forever (hence the stereotype that girls take forever to get ready)? Well, we can have it just as easy as men do. Who says we have to take an hour or more to get ready? It’s amazing how much freer one can feel when they’ve embraced their natural look.
I am not here to shame those who like to put on makeup or enjoy doing up their hair. I, too, enjoy doing these things, less so now, but certainly from time to time. I am not here to say that women should look in the mirror and go, “I am the most flawless Goddess in all the universe, everyone worship me and blow kisses at my beauty.” Humility is certainly a valuable trait. I am simply that women who feel they must put on makeup every day, even to run to the grocery store, should be able to find enough comfortability in their natural self that they no longer need to alter their appearance. Somewhere along our road to adulthood, women have been swayed to believe that their natural selves are less than and in need of modifications, whether it be applying a night cream to prevent wrinkles or getting wrinkles lasered off altogether. Women must embrace their natural selves because it is only when they do so that their wild woman – the holder of their exquisite souls – can shine through.