The notion that women’s bodies are unfairly scrutinized, criticized, and sexualized by the media is not a new idea. It’s been going on for centuries. Conversation about the problem consistently grows louder and exciting changes occur all the time. The majority of teenage and adult women are aware of the issue, able to identify proponents and examples of the offense, and confident enough so as not to internalize, or personalize, the media onslaught.
Over the years, and particularly due to the proliferation of facebook, I’ve read countless articles encouraging girls and women to accept themselves. Most are interesting, many are powerful, and some truly resonate with the reader. Today I discovered Victoria Erickson’s blog post I Like This Picture of My Cellulite. While the viral nature of the post is evidence that it resonated with a large number of people, I found myself particularly invested. Do read her work – it’s a breath of fresh air – but I’ll try to summarize here, briefly.
Erickson and a friend were candidly photographed by Atiim Jones Photography. When Erickson saw the print (reproduced below, Erickson is on the right), she quickly went from joy at the complete image to a critical analysis of portions of her body within the photo. She allowed a small, negative voice to tell her that there was something wrong with her appearance. However, Erickson recognized the self-sabotage and decided not to allow it. She decided to not only love the photo, but share it proudly. It was a stand for herself, but also an encouragement to other women to do the same.
I understood her. I’ve been there. I’ve dissected the photos. Essentially, I saw myself in Erickson. And, while I was able to follow her train of thought while she picked apart the photo, I still look at the image and think it’s beautiful. The girls in it are beautiful. How could Erickson have missed that, even for a moment? And then, how many moments might I have missed doing exactly the same thing? As easy as it may be to zone out the barrage of skinny, flawless, models in print and digital media, I have a hell of a time silencing what often seems to be the loudest voice of all. The voice in my head.
I believe – truly, passionately believe – that every human has the ability to be beautiful. The differences that make us unique are not only enhancing our beauty, but what actually make us beautiful to begin with. There is not a correct height, weight, nose shape, thigh size, breast curve or skin color. The idea that there are correct pieces is a fallacy, and I challenge anyone who disagrees to find one person – one single person – that embodies all the “correct” pieces. (Spoiler alert: can’t be done. There, I just saved one blowhard the time of searching) The only things that prevent, or detract from, external beauty are internal. Hate, anger and arrogance may not be tangible, but they have the power to muddy one’s appearance. All these things said, the truth is that I’m a hypocrite.
Standing at the bathroom mirror, looking over photos of the best times of my life, I do not approve of what I see. I see that I should have stood at a slightly different angle, tilted my head further, or maybe have invested in cosmetic surgery. Even more specifically, and in synch with Erickson’s piece, I am in possession of never-before-seen engagement photos. I actually chose NOT to share any of my engagement photos because I felt so awful about how I looked. In those photos, I didn’t see “beautiful” when I looked at myself. (To be fair, and assure you that my body-image is not completely deflated, I don’t think that I’m hideous, per se.) Although some of my friends have been privy to my hypocritical nature on the topic of beauty and self-acceptance, I generally avoid sharing it because I fear that MY dysmorphic views on MY body detract from the weight and power of my words when I say “You are beautiful.”
Because you are.
You are beautiful.
The problem, you see, is that I have internalized, and personalized, the critical words that surround all of us. Sadly, I know I’m not alone, and through doing this we each become our own worst enemy. So what do you do when you have to fight… yourself? Apparently, you take a step back, take a deep breath, and then decide to make a change. Somehow, we have to begin screaming back when the voice in our head gets negative. Stop missing the forest for the trees. I’m not certain that I can do it – but I’ve been inspired. And no-one, including me, should lose any more time listening to the negative voice, but rather to recognize that nasty tone, separate the thought, and consciously move it out of the path. (Spoiler alert: it’s a path to acceptance.)
In tribute to Erickson’s bold decision, and as a first step on my own path, I humbly submit my own photo from the missing engagement session.
I’m a work in progress, as most of us are. Just keep progressing.
Photo credit: (top) Atiim Jones Photography (bottom) Cait Corrao & Javier Fick (featured) wosom via photopin cc
Source credit: themanifeststation.net
Inspiration: Victoria Erickson, student at The University of Iowa