Welcome to the second in a series of Love Letters I am sending out inspired by all the amazing work, bravery and transformation I experienced whilst facilitating the recent Phoenix Rising Retreat.
This week, I want to us to gather around the soft glow of the fire to talk about an issue that has the power to not only effect all of us, but rob us blind of joy, worthiness and the divine right to inhabit our own skin, comfortably.
Yup, it’s time I told you some tales of all the workshops we did on Body Image at the retreat! And today , we zoom in on the ‘The Ideal Beauty Standard’ and its devestating effect on our self esteem.
Whilst this retreat was centered on the feminine ideal beauty standard, my beloved fellas rewarding this, don’t you dare click away. YOU get VERY similar messages about body image, and it can have just a negative effect on men as well.
I won’t lie. I had a lot of fun putting together this presentation. In many ways, I questioned if I was playing it safe, maybe I was merely going to repeat what so many of the women already knew… turns out, my fears were quite unfounded.
So, what is the Ideal Beauty Standard?
The feminine beauty ideal is "the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women's most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain". Feminine beauty ideals are rooted in hetero normative beliefs, and heavily influence women of all sexual orientations. The feminine beauty ideal, which also includes female body shape, varies from culture to culture. Pressure to conform to a certain definition of "beautiful" can have psychological effects, such as depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem, starting from an adolescent age and continuing into adulthood. - Wikipedia
The ‘Ideal Beauty Standard’ is the systematically re-enforced messaging by the beauty, fashion and marketing industries on what exactly is the most beautiful society wide. And thought it varies from culture to culture, there are some items that truly universal.
First up, it was time for me to put on my big white girl privileged ally pants and get to the most common, and an inherently generational brutality of all the ‘beauty standard’.
First on the ideal beauty standard check list is… WHITE/CAUCASIAN.
Yup, I went there.
Still to this very day, women of color are lightened and white washed on our magazine covers, marketed to ferociously for skin lightening cremes and so insidious is the institutionalized racism embedded in the ‘Ideal Beauty Standard’, that handed down from generation to generation, the belief that lighter is beautiful, wreaks havoc in POC communities.
Don’t believe me? Check this shizzle out!
It was both heartbreaking and empowering as the women of color at the retreat, Asian, African, Latino bravely gave a voice to the messages they received from their own mothers about how whiteness was preferable to darkness and how that deeply seeded resentment planted over generations, gave way to shunning and envy from other people of color who were darker skin toned, than themselves.
Next up, we went to the ‘Ideal Beauty Standard, around hair. How long flowing locks were consistently reinforced as the ultimate and, how overall, blonde was most beautiful.
It was tremendous to see how the women began to recognize themselves for adhering to this standard, coveting others and hating themselves for not naturally being born that way.
Another powerful stop on the checklist was Facial Features i.e. the flawless skin, small slim nose, strong jaw line, heart shaped face, ya know… the one we all contour, wax, mask, and wrinkle cream our way to every day!
Hayyyy girl. Oh wait… WHO DAT?!?!?!
Overall we touched on 16 different check list items that made up societies ‘Ideal Beauty Standard’ which we definitely do not have time for in a Love Letter however the real magic started to sparkle when we went down the rabbit hole of the persistent use in the imagery we see every day of Photoshop, contouring and plastic surgery to create this ideal and the mega awakening that what we see, what is shown to us every day… isn’t actually real! Hallelujah! What a revelation!
The hard truth is, that even if we intellectually know that these many altering methods are used, we see it so often on magazine covers, social media and in adverts, we are brainwashed to forget those facts, and covet this ideal.
And the fantasy never lives up to the reality. And yet, we not only chase this ideal, we come to believe that we are not pretty, thin, light, curvy, fit, AKA Barbie enough to be desired and loved.
And darlin’… if YOU can’t see your beauty, others will struggle to as well.
Today I challenge you to begin simply with thanking those areas of your body you give the side eye and maybe even talk some serious sh%t about.
Thank those stretchmarks for allowing your stomach to grow for your beautiful child.
Thank your thick thighs for power walking you through the many ups and downs for you life.
Thank that jiggle around the middle for accepting each and every delicious morsel you ate in Italy!
Thank those thin lips for giving kisses to those who you have loved and an fierce outlet for your voice to rise up!
Thank those big feet for getting you the best deals during the sales on the leftover size 9’s!
And thank that wide large nose for capturing the scent of spring in the air, as the flowers begin to blossom!
Your body, she has been so very good to you, even on the days you haven’t been very good to her.
I will be back here next week, with another LOVE LETTER inspired by the amazing Sex and Body Image retreat!