As a survivor of a spectrum of personal boundary trespasses, I’ve had a challenging time with developing a healthy sense of self. Part of the way this has manifested for me is an unhealthy body image, and a preoccupation with beauty (and my perceived lack of it). It was a truly challenging mindset to grow up with. As a young woman I have not been able to feel safe in a relationship or trust men to find me beautiful because I did not think I was.
But something remarkable happened over the last few weeks. First of all a recent hypnotherapy session allowed me to tune into my inner child and find out that all I ever needed was to feel safe. Since it was not a feeling I was accustomed to at home with my own father, it was hard to allow myself to trust complete strangers to accept me for who I was. So I realized that the thought that I was not beautiful was actually just a self-defense mechanism my mind created at a young age to keep the bad away.
Second, I had the experience of confronting my father 2 weekends ago and realizing that he has been verbally abusive. In essence this helped me understand that all the bad stuff he ever said about me (including many things that made me feel ugly) actually had nothing to do with me AT ALL. It turned out that this whole time, he was just brainwashing me since my childhood to help him feel better about himself. Meanwhile, here I was the whole time trying to get daddy’s approval.
Well, today I am officially FREE of that need. It’s really a dream come true, as I suspect this freedom was something I always desired but could never clearly identify. I now know that my dad is not capable to give me the approval that I was seeking as a little girl, so I’ve learned to reach within and find what I need it in myself. And today, I can glimpse in there and feel satisfied with who I am and what I look like. I now actually realize that beauty doesn’t even really matter. What matters is my connection to a person, to myself and to God. If I don’t have that, then it doesn’t matter how beautiful I am – my life will be ugly.
Thinking about this made me relate my personal experience to the bigger picture. In a way our media subtly disses us every time we see an ad for a pair of jeans or that new perfume. Essentially we see stereotypically beautiful people who are Photoshopped into unattainable perfection to send us the subtle message that what we look like, and who we are is simply not good enough. So we are sent on the never ending quest to try to improve ourselves, try to get to that ideal, conveniently (for the advertisers) spending more and more. It’s like chasing that carrot but never quite getting it. After all, what better way to convince us to buy stuff then to keep us perpetually insecure and looking for the thing that will finally fix us. We keep up with the Joneses in hopes of getting that bit of approval that will finally let us breather a sigh of relief. But like the abuser that uses their victim to feel powerful, the advertiser uses us to feel rich (and powerful). It’s not in their best interest to ever actually give us that approval because then we’d be satisfied and done chasing that carrot.
Well, I’m done chasing that carrot because I’m not a bunny.
Former model Cameron Russell does a great job of busting the beauty myth and shining a light on the manipulated imagery engineered to perpetuate self-hate in her TED Talk “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.”