Updated: Feb 11
We can all agree that we, women, live in challenging times. On the one hand, we are painfully aware that we are being judged on our physical appearance. Yet, on the other hand, if we then put time, effort and other resources into improving our connection to or appearance of our body, we are being labelled as vain and self-absorbed (or worse). Living in a society where a woman's beauty is appreciated but not truly valued begs the question: Is this a game we cannot win?
Oftentimes a woman's beauty is appreciated but not truly valued
I love a challenge as much as the next ambitious woman but in this case, years of trying to figure out this dilemma have taught me that the only logical answer is "Yes, by not playing." Some might say that this sounds like giving up but fact is that opting out is the one option which will offer you a chance to stay sane. Sanity might seem a sever term to bring into the discussion but what would you call something where, no matter what you did, no outcome will never truly be in your favour? You try this diet and that exercise regime and those beauty products but nothing is ever good enough, you never feel the desired effect of loving yourself just a little bit more. All the while others are still criticising your looks as well as your attempts and society continues to show you a narrow, photoshopped version of beauty standards. So you slowly but surely become frustrated and hopeless until you see no other option but to give up and accept your feeling of inadequacy as the status quo.
This is not fair. I agree, it hurts. So why should you keep playing by this game's rules? Notice how all of the above is putting the focus on external points of reference? Not only are most of us valuing other people's opinion of ourselves but we also submit to the cruel, anonymous judgement of society as a whole.
Truth be told, it is up to us whether we let any kind of judgement count. Over decades we have been taught to value external feedback. While this is helpful in VOC surveys or performance reviews, it is incredibly harmful if we allow it to take centre stage in our personal life as well. You are unique, your body is unique, your experiences are unique - how could anybody else, let alone society, relate to that to an extent where they would have enough insight to determine your worth?
No human is born feeling bad about (part of) their body. It is something that creeps in over the years and before we know it, it's an ingrained mechanism and we have no idea what to do about it. The solution is simple, yet anything but easy to put into practice: we need to claim back out birthright through uncompromising self-approval. It's up to you.
Self-approval means returning the focus inwards. It is about appreciating our uniqueness and having the conviction that it is up to us to feel confident about ourselves, regardless of external circumstances and fearless of other people's or society's judgement. Because once we truly, wholeheartedly approve of ourselves, none of this can ever again distract us from what really matters: leading change in order to have an inspiring impact on people's lives.