Pretty Hurts (But It Doesn’t Have to)

Women are stereotypically known for three things: crying, shopping and having a poor body image. According to a survey done by Glamour Magazine, 97% of women have a negative thought about their body every day . With society’s expectations, the way women are portrayed in the media and the way we judge each other, it’s no surprise that the majority of women have negative thoughts!

While we judge men based on their appearance, it’s not done to the extent that we judge women. In order to be a valuable member of society, women must be educated, well-dressed, have an amazing job, be married or in a relationship with a successful partner, produce perfectly behaved children and be thin, toned and beautiful. Did I also mention she has to be all of these things at all times? Women don’t get a day off, just scan the magazines next time you’re in the checkout line; I bet half of the covers will have celebrities who have been caught without make up or who look a little paunchy in their swimsuit. Even though we’re working towards changing the way media portrays women, the change isn’t happening fast enough. You have to take control of your own body image.

This past December, Victoria’s Secret had their annual fashion show. Glamorous, thin models strutted down the runway, much to the horror and fascination of women everywhere. I frequently heard my female coworkers make statements such as, “Oh my god the VS fashion show is on tonight, it’s time for me to hate my thighs!” or “I’m going to watch the show and then go cry later because I’ll never look like that!” I had to remind my coworkers that they were letting these models, who are complete strangers, control their emotions and make them hate themselves.

Instead of letting a model or a stranger make you feel insecure, you need to take responsibility for your own emotions. If the fashion show upsets you, then turn off the TV. If the model in Vogue makes you hate your love handles, then close the magazine. Go outside and get some air, pay attention to the people around you or do something nice for yourself. People can only make you feel a certain way if you let them. While I agree that the media and society pressures girls and women to look a certain way, you don’t have to give in to that pressure. The next time you have one of those negative thoughts, replace with a positive one. Change the channel or scenery and remind yourself that your body lets you do amazing things the way it is! Self-love isn’t easy, but hating your body and expecting it to look like someone else’s won’t achieve it.

You’re probably thinking what I’m saying is all easier said than done, or I don’t know what it’s really like to struggle with negative body image. About a year ago, I hated how I looked every day because a man in my life was telling me I wasn’t good enough and I let him control how I felt about myself. After hearing countless times how I shouldn’t be eating that bowl of ice cream or wearing skinny jeans, I began to believe him. I was chubby, I ate unhealthily all the time, I needed to workout; if he said it, it had to be true.

After a few months of this, I finally regained control over my emotions and self-image in one night. I was at work and on my break I tried on a new dress we had just gotten in. I was looking at myself in the mirror and a few of my female coworkers complimented me. In typical female fashion, I brushed off the compliments and mentioned all my flaws. They insisted I looked great and that I needed to listen and believe them. As women, we need to support each other as my coworkers did to prove to every woman she is a valuable, beautiful person. That night I realized something: if I could believe the criticism, why couldn’t I believe the compliments? And if several different people could say several different things, then why couldn’t I decide how I felt and looked for myself?

I stood up to that man and he no longer criticizes me. It turns out he was struggling with his own issues and found it easier to take it out on me than deal with it. Now, I look in the mirror everyday and find something to love about my body. If a negative thought pops into my head, I ask myself where is the thought coming from and replace it with a positive one. My body is going to change if I have children and as I age, so I need to live in the moment and love it at the present. Don’t ask why you don’t look like a supermodel or your best friend. Ask why you’re amazing as you are and why you deserve love from yourself, because you do, no matter what you look like.

Ashley is a 20-something Marketing and Apparel Merchandising college student. She hopes to be a digital marketing specialist in the fashion world someday and eventually own a boutique. For now, she’s busy studying, working, interning, writing and dreaming about getting some sleep! You can read more of her articles by visiting her LinkedIn here.

Featured Image via Shutterstock.

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