Recently I've been doing a lot of thinking about our standard of beauty. Last night, a friend mentioned to me that his female friend had recently undergone breast enlargement surgery. He solicited my advice on how he should respond to his friend and I honestly didn't know what to tell him. My overwhelming feeling was one of immense sadness. Plastic surgery has become so commonplace that we've forgotten that it's a major surigcal procedure. As with every surgery there are several potential risks and complications associated with the surgery. One of them being death. It used to be that surgery was only performed when no other treatment option was viable or effective. Now women all over the world are intentionally putting themselves under general anaesthesia, having their flesh sliced open and inserting foreign objects into their body all on a seemingly never-ending quest for beauty. The reason it saddens me is that plastic surgery is an aesthetic solution to an emotional problem. No matter how much plastic surgery is performed, fixing the external is never a means of fixing the internal.
As women we are all plagued with a myriad of insecurities, heightened every day by the standard of beauty presented to us in the media. We're either too fat, or too skinny, too dark or too pale, too curvy or not curvy enough. I can almost guarantee that there is no woman who couldn't instantly name the part of their appearance they're currently most unhappy with. The problem is, the advancement of scientific research and medicine has meant that rather than try to accept our imperfections, we are able to eliminate them. It's a seemingly never-ending cycle of insecurity, augmentation and fleeting happiness until the next imperfection is discovered.
As women we have all grown up aspiring to a standard of beauty that to the majority of women is unattainable. A standard of beauty dictated by the media and the beauty industry in order to promote an esoteric, unacheivable image to women. The intentional promotion of an image only a small percentage of women are ever likely to achieve has been an incredibly successful marketing strategy that has perpetuated the ever increasing sales of beauty magazines and cosmetic products. While these corporations line their pockets with money, a young girl sits at home on the brink of committing suicide because she doesn't believe she is beautiful. While they celebrate the billion dollar profits of their products, another sits at home wondering if she is too ugly to be loved. It breaks my heart because I've been there too. I've been the girl who looks in the mirror and is brought to tears at the reflection she sees. I've been the girl that has felt inadequate because I didn't match up to the image represented to me every single day of my life. I've been the girl who questioned whether anyone ever thought I was beautiful. I've been there and it hurts. It's self-destructive and self defeating.
The truth is, we were not all supposed to look the same. I know this is a mantra that is continually repeated, but it's clearly one that bears repeating because it's not resonating deeply enough with us. We were created to be different. The features we think are ugly are physical idiosyncrasies that separate us from every other individual. Our differences are not imperfections. They are not flaws. They are not faults. They are what make us unique. They are what make us attractive. They are what make us beautiful.
Whilst we can't control what's perpetuated in the media, we can change how we choose to respond to it. We can change the words we say to ourselves. We can identify the negative self-deprecating thoughts and intentionally combat them with positive ones. We can look in the mirror and boldly declare that we are beautiful. We can change the deeply entrenched mentality that we are supposed to look like anyone other than ourselves. We were created just as we were supposed to be. None of the features on our face were accidentally placed there. We were intelligently designed. We were fearfully and wonderfully made.
I once read in a magazine that if you can look at yourself in a full-length mirror for a full five minutes without turning away in disgust, you are more confident than the vast majority of women. That breaks my heart. That can't be our story. We can't let that mentality continue. If not just for ourselves, for the generations below us. For the children we have or are yet to have. For our cousins, nieces and god-daughters. If just for them, we have to accept who we are as we are.
I urge you to try the mirror challenge but instead of picking out flaws, pick out the positives. Tell yourself you are beautiful. Compliment the things you like about yourself. Speak words of affirmation to yourself. Though it may initially feel strange, eventually the words will seep into your subconscious. They will suddenly start to challenge the negative thoughts you once had and eventually replace them. Speak life.
In the words of Christina Aguilera…
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.
And don't you ever forget it.