I like this quote because it is both a humorous visual as well as a bit sobering. I think about self-esteem often as it relates to myself and my ability to notice even the slightest bit of girth as it sneaks onto my hips or the small lines that seem to be developing in my knees (cue the eeewwww knee wrinkles?!) and how much it bothers me. Silly, yes I know, but I too am influenced by society’s opinions of outward beauty. As a ripple effect, it affects what I might wear, or how I carry myself on a given day, thereby keeping my parking break on. When I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, it definitely makes it more difficult for me to put my best foot forward.
How society can define “beauty” for you was made abundantly clear to me when I was living in Japan, where I lived for 2 years after college. My my ex-husband and I lived there together, and by the middle of my second year there, I started to feel very down about my appearance which ultimately had little to do with him, and everything to do with me. It had nothing to do with my weight, or height, or fine lines, it all came down to the fact that I was not Japanese!
For 2 years I had seen images of beautiful Japanese girls with all the men around me talking about how pretty all the Japanese girls were. Billboard after billboard, soap stars, TV commercials, everywhere I looked pretty Japanese girls. I remember one night as JFS and I strolled the streets of Shibuya, I could tell he was also starting to find the Japanese women attractive, so after a couple of cocktails, I decided to ask him if he thought a particular Japanese celebrity on the billboard in front of us was attractive. There are so so so many reasons this was a bad idea all of which you can surmise, but the point is, I knew the answer and I had been deceived through my immersion into believing I was no longer attractive. It did not matter what was on the inside, at that point I cared about the outside.
After those 2 long years, I felt ugly.
When it comes to the concept in the context of my children, I am even more sensitive. While I think my babies are beautiful, it’s sort of a given since doesn’t every mother think their children are the cutest things ever? With Q I am not as worried, he seems to already have quite a good sense of himself as does E in her own way, but it is more her future that I worry about. I look at E and in my mind her outer package is beautiful and I am not afraid to tell her that. I also tell her she is so smart, and funny and strong, and pretty much every other compliment you can give a baby girl.
As the current debate swirls around the ever shrinking size of the models that grace the pages of our magazines or our television screens in commercials, I do worry about instilling in E that she is beautiful at any size, shape or color. That no matter what happens in her journey, her strength, smiles, and joyful heart make her lovely in eyes that go beyond mine. I want her to understand being healthy vs. skinny to be pretty and that you can be pretty even if you aren’t 5′ 10 and a 106 lbs.
In this concern, as a mother and a parent, I know I am not alone. Just last week I had a conversation with one of my best friends who was talking about body image. I have known her forever and like me she has struggled with her self-image and weight. In my time, I have had quite a few friends with eating disorders and once these thoughts plague you, they are very hard to get rid of. Yet, as she so poignantly said in our conversation, she now has to set an example for her 7 year old daughter. No matter what thoughts creep up in her head, she cannot let them get the better of her as she is now an example for her most precious gift.
In light of this state of affairs in our own society, I want to introduce you to Seth Matlins, from http://www.offourchests.com. He and his wife Eva, are putting forth a unique Federal Legislation proposal,l which was first published in Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-matlins/post_2329_b_932086.html) and again written about on Forbes.com (http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2011/09/23/proposed-legislation-warning-labels-on-photoshopped-ads/2/), to provide a disclaimer on US Advertisements, labeling if the photo has been photoshopped. I will let him tell you in his words, what inspired he and Eva, what their goal is, and if you are interested, what you can do to help. No matter where you net out in the argument, it’s inspiring to know that there are folks out there trying to ensure the next generation of girls will be able to hopefully love themselves for who they are and not how we are told we should look.
Shannon: How do you describe offourchests.com to those that aren’t aware of it?
Shannon: What inspired the self-esteem act?
Shannon: What do you hope the effect will be?
Shannon: If you could wave a magic wand, what are 3 things you hope for your own daughter by the time decides to have her own children (if she does of course)?
A BIG thanks to you Seth for your time and education on this issue. My personal thoughts on the issue is that every little bit can help. While people probably do know that these images have been photoshopped, I don’t think it hurts to remind them.