Does This Blog Make Me Look Fat

I don’t think we’re unusual, when you have a teenage girl in the house, an ongoing topic of conversation is what attributes makes a girl attractive. Valerie, our 15 year old daughter, and I were talking about this recently and I asked her if she thought that most girls she knows are unhappy with their bodies. She said that is a very common theme and then as confirmation of that, she pulled out a recent issue of Seventeen magazine. There was a survey in it with a statistic that “91% of teen girls feel anxiety or stress about some part of their looks when getting ready in the morning.” In other words, almost every girl looks in the mirror and says, “I hate my”¦fill in the blank.”

Ok, that’s teenagers. Being unhappy about their lives is part of their job description. But how about us mom types? Am I any different?

There are many aspects of my appearance that I’ve come to accept over the years. Mostly because time has shown that the things I used to worry about really didn’t make any difference in the way my life has turned out. For instance, as much as I wished I had been born with a little button nose I can’t imagine how it would have made life any better. The size of my nose didn’t keep me from snagging and marring a really good looking guy who valued what was on the inside more than a perfect profile.

But if someone surveyed me about whether I felt stress about some part of my looks, like the teenagers who were surveyed, I would also have to answer yes. I’m not obsessing about my nose anymore, now it’s the wrinkles and crepe-y skin under my eyes.

Trying to help my daughter feel secure in her appearance and realizing that I also focus on my perceived flaws and has made me wonder: were women always as unhappy with their appearance as we seem to be nowadays?

I think women have always been concerned with wanting to be attractive. Although the Bible doesn’t mention it, I wouldn’t be surprised if after Eve ate from the tree in the Garden and God gave her animal skins to wear that the first words out of her mouth were, “Adam, does this deer hide make me look fat?”

It’s in our DNA to want to look good and feel good about ourselves. But looking good in our culture isn’t enough. Images in the media give us the message that physical perfection is the goal. And I find that it is very easy to get caught up in the attitude that if we don’t match up to the image then there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed.

I immediately think of a Victoria’s Secret TV commercial in which this unattainable perfection is literally in our face. There are probably married men who never get that close to a woman in lingerie; now we’re merely inches away from Selita Ebanks. Whenever one of these ads comes on, everyone in the family room perks up and stops what they are doing to watch. Steve jokes that he’s watching “art” but the girls in the room (and I include myself in that category) sit spellbound as we mentally tick off the differences between the supermodels and ourselves. Sometimes I think that those women aren’t the same species as me. They must be aliens; no human woman has legs and boobs like that.

The problem is that it is so easy to compare myself to someone else ““ whether it’s a Victoria’s Secret model or just a woman next to me on the treadmill at the gym – and in the process, end up feeling inadequate. For some reason, I’m always drawn to comparing myself to someone who I think looks better than I do, and I always end up feeling worse. That’s something I try to remind myself and teach Valerie about. Don’t do it – comparing yourself is always a losing proposition.

Another reason that it’s easy for us to feel dissatisfied with our appearance is because changing it with plastic surgery is now an option ““ or at least it is if you have enough money. We used to be stuck with what God gave us but not so anymore. For example, in my mother’s generation if your eyelids got droopy, then so be it. So did everyone else’s. But I’ve found that when the possibility for change exists, I become discontented with what I have and I forget to appreciate the good qualities ““ like being healthy enough to be concerned with a problem as skin-deep as sagging eyelids.

In our youth and beauty obsessed culture it’s almost hard to remember a time when being vain was a negative quality. Now somebody like Paris Hilton is celebrated solely for her vanity. And since physical beauty seems to be the only quality that is of importance in much of the media, when we fall short of the ideal, then that must mean that we are inadequate as people; who cares what someone thinks or does ““ it’s just how they look.

The success of Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty confirms that there are a lot of women who want to hear a positive message about who they are and what they look like. I spent a few minutes on the website and there are some wonderful tools for moms and mentors to use to help young girls recognize how beautiful they are. It would be a wonderful thing to share with my 11 year old daughter’s Girl Scout Troop.

Does my frustration with our self-absorbed culture mean that I can’t enjoy a vanity fest like tonight’s Academy Awards? Of course not; it’s just entertainment.

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