It’s astonishing to me how normalized it is to be ruthlessly critical of the female form; we’re socialized to derive value from beauty but set up to never attain it. The idea that women are more than beauty appears radical, and the reckless celebration of oneself is labeled narcissistic. We are taught to struggle with “our relationship with our bodies,” as if our bodies are an antagonistic entity entirely separate from ourselves.
It takes a conscious, sustained effort to crawl out of the sinkhole that is body negativity, and even then it’s a feat not to get sucked back in. Although this is a process that’s different for everyone, I wanted to share some of the methods I use to feel comfortable and shut down self-judgement.
- do not ever, EVER, talk shit about other people’s bodies: This is a hard habit to get out of, especially if you grew up surrounded by people who did this, but it’s 100% one of the most worthwhile changes you can ever make re: how you think about others. There is no situation where your life will be improved by thinking/calling somebody else ugly. Furthermore, being in a mindset where you evaluate/criticize other people’s bodies will make you negatively evaluate yourself.
At first you might have trouble getting critical thoughts out of your head, but the one thing you can do while you try to change the way you think is to stop verbalizing criticisms. Don’t tell someone that you think somebody else looks bad, and definitely do not tell someone this to their face.
I’ll say this one last time: YOU DO NOT NEED TO CRITICIZE PEOPLE’S BODIES/EXPRESSION. IT WILL ONLY HURT BOTH OF YOU.
If you don’t like that somebody has fat/hair/pimples/a bad haircut/scars/stretchmarks/tattoos/piercings, get over it. None of these things are bad and none of them need to be commented on. Literally the first step to accepting your body is to be respectful and kind to other people’s bodies. (It’s important to note that admiring beautiful people walks a fine line too — it’s obviously alright to acknowledge that someone is beautiful, but there’s a danger in putting too much weight on that, because it’s easy to feel ugly by comparison. Remember: JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE IS BEAUTIFUL DOES NOT MEAN YOU CAN’T BE BEAUTIFUL TOO.)
- seek out positive images of bodies that are like yours: Seek out and save images of short people, people with stretch marks, people will body fat in the places you have fat, people with hairy pits and dark leg hair and bushy eyebrows, whatever it is that people are telling you needs to be changed to fit into the rigid mold of western beauty. Pay special attention to the images where these people are confident, accomplished, happy, and don’t confine your search to magazines. Look online, look for people in politics/sciences/the arts/whatever, look everywhere you can. Get used to looking at and celebrating all people, not just the people who promote cosmetic companies’ agendas.
- exercise for self-care, not for aesthetic: Exercise has so many benefits, and it’s a damn shame that the only reason anybody ever talks about it is for weight loss. Exercise will help you sleep, help your mood, help you live longer, and help you socialize. Thinking of exercise as something you do to keep yourself healthy is so much more useful and motivating than looking at it as some necessary evil on the road to becoming Objectively Hot.
- take control of your physical expression: Question what aspects of your grooming you’re doing for yourself, and which ones you’re doing for others. Get the piercings you want, do your hair the way you want, dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and happy. However it is that you want to modify your appearance, do it and do it fearlessly. At the same time, if there’s something that you’re made to feel like you should change, don’t let pressure from others make the decision for you; really try to get to the root of whether you really want something, or if you feel like you want it because of the way women are socialized. (This is easier said than done, but still worth trying.)
- remind yourself that you don’t exist to be pretty: Your value does not come from how you look, it comes from existing and living and having emotions, and even if you enjoy beauty rituals as a form of self care/expression, they don’t need to define you. Your body is a part of you, and it deserves to be cared for and loved, but remember that it exists for you and only you. Your body is not for your romantic interests or your family or your friends or the entitled street harasser — it’s fine to feel pretty, and it’s fine to have days when how you look does not even cross your mind.
The little tasks that make up “becoming beautiful” are presented to us as easy and harmless. Shaving your legs or putting makeup on is not objectively difficult, but there’s another layer that actually is damaging. All of the energy and time that goes into primping, if not enjoyed, is being used to control us. Worrying about weight, for example, consumes massive fucking quantities of mental and emotional energy, and losing that energy makes accomplishing other goals harder. It’s difficult, but I try to be critical of what activities I’m doing because I actually like them (ie, wearing lipstick) and what I do because I’m scared of fallout (ie, fussing over body hair). The latter is the one that is hurting you — if it’s consuming your energy without providing value to you, that activity is just keeping you down.
stay strong, you wonderful babes,