As a human with access to multiple social media platforms and magazines, you’d have to live under a rock to not know our culture places an enormous focus on physical beauty and appearance. We admire certain models, celebrities, fitness coaches, and peers for their hair, body, makeup, clothing. Why not? It feels great to applaud people for their fabulousness and dedication to be ridiculously good looking.
But, like, hell-o? We already knew this from age six when we caved wore scrunchies and Oshkosh B-Gosh overalls to fit in? Duh.
So while I will always be your cheerleader for posting a great bikini pic (you better werk), I will also be your biggest fan no matter what you look like if I truly find you beautiful on the inside. Cellulite and all.
We all struggle with our self confidence when it comes to comparing ourselves with others. There is always someone with better hair, eyebrows, abs, and legs than us. It’s hard not to fall into a black hole on the Instagram “Explore” page.
Sometimes we’re able to brush off our feelings of self-doubt and love ourselves for what we are. Other times, it’s hard not to feel inadequate while scrolling through airbrushed photos of others frolicking on the beach or posing with coconuts.
It’s okay. I’m not here to bash anyone for what they decide to post or who they admire for their looks. Instead, I hope to give you a little perspective from someone who has over forty years (but doesn’t look a day over thirty) of experience dealing with pressure from culture to look a certain way.
Enter Karen Hovie.
My mom is truly one of the most beautiful souls in the world. I say this not only as her daughter, but as a young woman who looks up to a powerful woman who is fighting to change our perception of “beautiful” and what it means.
I asked her to write a guest post and she agreed to share her perspective. Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re all gorgeous kweens! Being stunningly gorgeous isn’t simply knowing how to do your makeup or what to wear or how to eat or exercise…it’s being comfortable in your own skin and knowing YOU ARE ENOUGH as you are.
So as bikini season approaches (it has arrived, honey), here is a kind reminder that your self-worth should not be determined by how closely you resemble a celebrity or model.
Respect your body, eat whole foods so you have energy to spread good vibes, and learn to appreciate yourself for what you are: a fabulous betch that is unapologetically herself.
Last summer, after reading Jennifer Aniston’s rather scathing essay to the media addressing body shaming, I was inspired to write the following:
I give Jennifer Aniston credit for going public with her frustrations with the media in its portrayal of the female experience. However, I wonder if the message would have been more powerful had she been compelled to address a picture of her that was inarguably beautiful, but inarguably edited, instead of one that cast her in a ‘less than perfect’ light.
Now that would have sent a powerful message.
And that was as far as I got.
Shortly after Aniston’s essay hit the press, I was watching ‘LIVE with Kelly’ (a guilty summertime pleasure). ‘Dancing with the Stars’ judge Carrie Ann Inaba was co-hosting. As she interacted with the audience, I was drawn to her charismatic personality. She radiated joy and self confidence. I was also aware that she looked healthy. Vibrant even. She did not have the rock hard athletic body of Kelly Ripa; she looked real.
And then, she grabbed her stomach roll for all the world to see. I could not have loved her more!
Now, fast forward to last month, when my daughter Kristin asked me to write a guest post for her blog on…body image. (You knew that was coming, right?) I felt it was a sign, because while I never finished writing the post, I didn’t delete it either. This was the push I needed.
Before I go any further, there are a few things you should know about me. First and foremost, I am passionate about health and wellness. I eat a mostly whole food, plant-based diet. I exercise consistently and in moderation most of the time. I typically get 7-8 hours a sleep. On most days I devote time to prayer and meditation. Yet in spite of this all, having a positive body image is something I continually struggle with work on.
(Words bolded, as I don’t want you to get the impression that I am perfect, as I most certainly am not. Nor do I strive for it.)
Truthfully, while the topic of body image is near and dear to my heart, figuring out what to write has been challenging. Very challenging.
What could I write that you didn’t already know? What could I write that would make a difference in your life?
You understand the importance of positive body image.
You know the consequences of possessing a poor body image.
You’re probably aware most women have a negative body image.
And I know you are well aware of social media’s negative impact on body image.
We all know all of this, yet little changes.
Social media continues to be inundated with before and after pictures, sweaty post-workout pictures, edited pictures, bodies positioned in perfect-angle pictures…pictures suggesting there is an ideal.
Reality says (as do numerous surveys), few of us look like the so called ideal.
More importantly, we weren’t meant to.
Yet we keep trying to morph our bodies into something unnatural. We keep trying to be something we weren’t meant to be. We are brainwashed into believing we should be slender with a flat stomach and thigh gap, wear a size 2, have muscle tone, tanned skin, white teeth, and thick hair. And if we don’t meet these qualifications? Well…
And that’s when I think back to Carrie Ann Inaba. She looked healthy. She was comfortable in her own skin. And I think because of this, I admired her. A lot. She was somebody I would love to get to know.
The world needs more Carrie Ann Inabas.
And then I began to wonder, are there more Carrie Ann Inabas out there?
Turns out, there are. In my search for positive role models, I discovered a movement in the world of social media. There are women posting ‘before and after’ pictures taken within minutes of each other in an effort to make a point; looks can be altered in mere seconds. What you see, isn’t necessarily real. Perception is not necessarily reality.
I applaud these real women. We need to see belly rolls. We need to see cellulite. We need to see back fat. We need to see wrinkles and stretch marks and freckles and zits. We need to see authentic women. We need to see how an ideal body can disappear in the blink of an eye, because, until authenticity becomes the norm, positive body image will continue to be a struggle for many of us.
We will continue to strive to attain bodies we can’t healthily maintain, because in our quest to achieve the ideal, we’ve stopped taking care of ourselves. We’ve stopped listening to what our bodies are telling us. We’ve stopped being intuitive.
So what if we started listening? Really listening.
What if the focus shifted from outward appearance to overall health? What if we honored our bodies by eating real food, exercising daily and in moderation, and making time for rest and spiritual rejuvenation?
Could you accept your outward appearance knowing you were taking care of yourself?
And not that it should be a driving force, but just how do you want to be remembered?
By the hours you spent at the gym? The miles you’ve logged? The size of your clothes? The number of the scale? Your hair? Complexion? Muscle tone? Thigh gap?
I hope not. I hope this is not what defines you.
You are so much more than your outward appearance.
What matters, what truly matters, is who you are. What’s going to make a difference, is what you do.
So what if, we simply lived and focused our efforts on doing all we could to make the world a better place?
For more, head over to my mom’s blog 2write4health.com. She shares some great recipes, witty puns, and offers health and fitness advice.