How Social Media Sparks A Struggle To Maintain A Healthy Perception Of What Is Beautiful
I wake up in the morning ready to embrace the new day.
There is nothing better to me -- a young and ambitious woman -- than a beautiful, sunny morning. You never know what a new day will bring.
I yawn, stretch and daydream a little as I lie in bed, thinking mostly about future travels to tropical islands. I hop out of bed and head to the kitchen, all smiles, until I stop in front of my fridge and contemplate what to eat for breakfast. It should be simple, but that question begins the day-long battle with pressure-filled decisions.
It's the questions that every young Millennial woman is forced to confront, and the answers must lead us to being beautiful, successful, desired and perfect.
If it's not some kind of cleanse, it's a diet or at least the thought of being on a diet. Breakfast is just the start; then there’s planning lunch, dinner and snacks. The other choice is to just not give a flip, go out to eat with my friends and deal with the guilt later.
Television, movies and social media all pull apart, mold and stretch women thin, to the point where they are nothing but plastic. Their worth is calculated into dress sizes and smooth skin.
Back to breakfast
I make a smoothie full of deliciously nutritious fruits and vegetables and I enjoy it, yet I'm still not sure if I ate it because I am supposed to or because I wanted to. Quickly after breakfast, it's time to plan my workout.
Some days it fits in easily with my life and others it's like pulling teeth, but I commit to it anyway. Everyone tells me bikini season is approaching and I should be fully aware that my peers will be judging my body come summertime.
My mind flashes to images on Pinterest of fitspo, Brazilian butt blaster workouts, yoga bodies and beautiful women glistening in barely-there workout clothes.
"Strong is the new skinny," repeats in my mind like a mantra that I am forced to adapt, mainly because the alternative that "skinny is in, don't eat that cookie," is something I don't even want to consider.
I know that I love to feel strong, I know that my body feels great when I make it sweat and work hard and honestly I know my body looks great naked (I've been told many times *wink*).
I know these things and I love these things about my body, but then why is my motivation purely to look better? Who is to say I don't already look good enough?
Still, I am terrified that if I don't work hard to achieve some sort of unattainable physical standard of beauty, like the ones I see on those motivational Pinterest posts, I am not worthy of bikini season.
The mantra "strong is the new skinny" even seems to lose all value because I do not look like nor will I look exactly like those girls, regardless of how badass my workout was and how strong I feel.
When the gym is out of the way, I get ready for work. I stare in the mirror piecing together outfits that reflect a professional confidence, maintain a slight sexy allure and try to appear smart and sophisticated.
The closest I get to that is dark-wash skinny jeans, a nice black blouse and some flats. I probably won't make it on to any fashion blog today with my #OOTD, but it works and I work it. I'm feeling great from my smoothie and my workout and the sun is still shining, so my head is held high as I make my way to work.
The time during my commute is spent catching up on social media. I am bombarded by photos, statuses and information that my brain tries to decipher and make relevant to my own life.
Inadvertently and unnecessarily, I begin to compare my life to everyone else's. My lack of boyfriends, baby showers, jet setting and celebrity trainers forefront my thoughts, and my worth slowly diminishes with every swipe of my finger.
I do not feel as beautiful as the girl who is modeling for magazines. I do not feel as fit as the girl from high school who now teaches pilates and only eats vegetables.
I do not feel as exciting as the couple that spends half their year in Paris, and I do not feel as accomplished as the girl who just signed her first book deal. Surrounded -- no, consumed -- by all of this, I have difficulty finding the importance in my own life.
When I arrive at work, I quickly fall into a routine and the day flies by as I eat my pre-packed healthy lunch at my desk and take short breaks to catch up on some news.
Towards the end of my workday, I watch my boss walk into a room where he is having a meeting with his boss. I start to realize that I have never really been treated like I could be a boss or even like I possess capabilities.
Often I feel as though I get swept under the rug, brought up to think that maybe one day I'll just meet a rich man and then I won't have to work, because girls like me shouldn't have to work (whatever that means).
The strong female career role models I have drawn strength from are often over shadowed by Kardashian types.
I find myself worrying more about my weight and desirability than if I am feeling fulfilled in my job. When I do think of a woman who is strong and successful, it feels so out of reach its almost too overwhelming to grasp.
Women like Oprah, Hillary Clinton, J.K. Rowling, etc. who are beautiful, powerful and have worked so hard to achieve their success.
Then I begin to think, if only I looked better maybe I could just be an actress and marry a producer and I wouldn't have to strive to be the exception to the rule.
Finally work is coming to an end and I have a promising date tonight. I am so excited because Tinder and OKCupid have brought me nothing but dick pics and drunken boredom. I pour my thoughts into finding clothes that make me look like the fun, cool and hot girl you'd see at a dive bar.
I drink a glass of wine to calm my nerves. I vow to be all the things I am told a guy wants. I will be carefree and fun and make him laugh. I will call him on his BS then smile sweetly when he pays me a compliment. I will be interested and uninterested at the same time, all while looking naturally beautiful.
Despite any level of chemistry, I will be a bit of a tease and on no terms will I sleep with him. My plan feels flawless. Regardless if I will like him or not, he is sure to fall head-over-heels for me. We meet, and he is so good-looking and charming that it knocks me off my game a little, but I persevere and enjoy myself greatly.
We talk, laugh and listen to music, and the night feels like one of my daydreams. I keep him in line and he is a perfect gentleman who sends me off like a prince with the promise of many more nights and a goodnight kiss.
I go home and lie back in bed, those nagging thoughts throughout my day float out of my ear back into the universe and all that fills my mind is music and memories of the night.
With a few more dates and a little less self-control, those Pinterest images of beauty begin to seem dumb. Celebrity beauty becomes superfluous, and I begin to feel like I'm finally fitting into society's standard. My worth feels restored.
It's been over two weeks since our third date and I haven't heard from the guy. My mind cannot seem to wrap around an answer. I scan the Internet for articles to help me cope with the situation.
Advice like, "he's just not that into you" and "it was all about the chase" is popping up everywhere, yet I can't seem to connect the dots.
I know this is normal and it's not the end of the world, but immediately I start to spiral into a whirl of self-doubt where "what ifs" become beauty comparisons to strangers and girlfriends who I could look nothing like.
I lose all sight of the fact that I was charming, smart, funny and completely amazing and wonder how I can quickly lose 10 pounds just in case I run into him in the next week.
I feel betrayed by my genetics, chalking up the whole situation to his desire of the unrealistic expectations of women and still I feel defeated. Like our culture says, it isn't his fault; he was just being a guy. I couldn't hold his interest; I wasn't everything a woman should be.
Every day I mindfully practice self-acceptance and love. I feel it is me against the world, and if I don't think of myself as worthy, no one else will. As hard as I try, even my strongest attempts are often destroyed the second I encounter a beauty comparison to someone else.
I work hard to grow in experience and be present in this life as a smart, funny and creative woman, even when the world tries to pound into my head that all of my self-worth is based solely on my appearance.
Who am I to question the world? But I am fighting for my freedom from drowning in thoughts of diets and products and dissatisfaction. Women often establish a mean girl mentality to protect themselves from the judgment in the world, but that only pulls us apart.
Men find it okay to treat us as though we are objects. My only true answer has been to seek a life where there are as few of these impositions as possible. It's no wonder my daydreams consist of islands where you live in pure happiness far from media influences.
I use awareness as the tool to keep those influences from invading my life. I do my best to reinforce confidence and self-love into the people around me, I respect my fellow women, I give men the chance to step up and I support media influences that challenge societal norms of beauty.
But until our world changes its perception of a young woman's role in society, beautiful and smart women like me will have hundreds of days like these.
Alone we can attempt to resist these pressures, but together with love, we can fight it. You are perfect and so full of worth just the way you are.
Photo via We Heart It