“My hips are huge!” Karen from the movie Mean Girls exclaims.
“Oh please. I hate my calves,” Gretchen replies.
“At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders,” Regina tells her reflection.
Scenes like these, though exaggerated, are happening in our very homes. Girls of all ages, starting as young as four-years-old, are being taught that the way they look is not good enough and should somehow be altered. Little girls, just past toddler age, are being put on diets and told that they won’t be “cute” until they lose weight. Four-, five-, and six-year-olds are covered in makeup and hairspray, stuck in frilly dresses, and put on stage to participate in beauty pageants. Rather than encouraging girls to change their appearance, we should teach them to appreciate what they were born with.
With shows like America’s Next Top Model and Toddlers & Tiaras as well as full coverage of things such as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, it’s no wonder girls have distorted expectations as to how they should look. Truth is, it’s nearly impossible to look like supermodels Adriana Lima or Giselle Bundchen. Trying to imitate their look has just added numbers to the already growing statistics. According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, about seven million women suffer from an eating disorder. Encouraging the stereotypes just causes even greater numbers of girls and women to be dissatisfied with how they look.
Remember that beauty comes in different forms. On the upside, celebrities such as Taylor Swift are often criticized for their tall and thin figure. “She’s anorexic,” and “Does she ever eat?” are comments frequently directed at her image. Many times, when women want to be empowering, they say things such as “Embrace your curves, nobody wants a stick.” Remarks such as these, as well-intended as they are, ignore the fact that girls and women are beautiful no matter what they look like; tall, short, thin, chubby, brown-eyed, blue-eyed, it’s all beauty. There isn’t a template that one has to fit in order to be beautiful. “I remind myself that nobody is perfect, not even those actresses and models,” Chelsea Villa, age 19, says. “We all have different hair, eye, and skin colors, with a variety of hair textures and body shapes, and to me, that’s real beauty.”
Focus on the things you like. Instead of pointing out flaws as we stare in the mirror, we should point out things we like. Something as simple as the shape of your eyes should be a cause to celebrate. No one has perfect features, but it’s important to know what features are perfect for you. Perhaps you don’t like your nose, but your high cheek bones are beautiful and you should remember that. If you’ve always wanted blonde hair but were born with dark brown, choose to focus on how rich your curls are rather than your dislike of the color.
Write positive messages to yourself. Leave them in places where you’ll be able to see them. “Good morning, beautiful!” written across your mirror can help bring a smile to your face and liven up your mood as you get ready in the morning. A post-it note with “Your dark hair really brings out your eyes” written across from it will be a great find as you dig through your pencil bag. It’s nice to hear from others that we look good, but it’s even better to hear it from yourself. Don’t be afraid to bring out the cheesy-overload!
Remember no one has perfect skin. No matter how beautiful and flawless someone’s skin looks, it’s guaranteed that at the worst time possible, they will get a pimple. Don’t stress out if you wake up and you have blemishes on your face. Rather than focusing all your attention on that, head over to your closet and wear whatever makes you feel good. Whether it is a flowered dress, a sparkly shirt, or your favorite band t-shirt, wearing something that you love and feel comfortable in will make you forget that you have some spots that weren’t there before. Learning to focus your attention to things you love about yourself is a great way to feel confident in your own skin.
Understand that beauty isn’t just what is on the inside. Most importantly, remember that beauty isn’t only made up of long legs, perfect hair, and luscious lips. Confidence, intelligence, and wit are beauty. Whether you look like a supermodel or not, as long as you think you’re beautiful and remind yourself of that every day, others will see your beauty as well.