Tag Archives: superficial

Society’s notion on beauty is a complicated one. And as I attempt to live a life of integrity and authenticity within my roles as amother and an egalitarian, I find it too easy to be hypocritical about this issue of beauty. Since SO much of a woman’s importance is placed on how she presents herself, it’s a tricky balance to model a healthy antithesis to society’s encouragement of narcissism and ostentation.

I have had the fortune of being privy to many beauty-related conversations girlfriends of mine have had with their daughters, most of whom are under the age of 7. Usually the conversation is in the context of the mom encouraging her daughter, emphasizing that her daughter is beautiful (inside and out), and that she doesn’t need to change herself. She’s been created perfect just the way she is. Inevitably, the conversation turns when the daughter inquires about why her mom changes her appearance.

Why do you wear make-up?

Why do you dye your hair?

Needless to say, this is the junction where modelling the healthy antithesis to vanity and narcissism would come in handy. (Thankfully my daughter isn’t of age to ask me that today; otherwise, I would have to concede that I am a hypocrite and that I buy into – figuratively and literally – a billion dollar industry that tells me I’m not okay…). I’ve heard many women chime in about what they would say if their child asked, and typically, the response is something like this.

It’s fun, and I like to play with colours [of eye shadow and lipstick].

Really, ladies? Really!? The MAIN reason you wear make-up and colour your greying roots is because it’s fun? I beg to differ. My suspicion is that the MAIN reason you wear make-up or colour your hair is because you feel self-conscious. After all, we’ve been bread to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in our own skin UNLESS we do something to ‘fix’ it.

Don’t we do a disservice to our daughters (and sons) when we’re not honest about this? Don’t we do a disservice to ourselves? Our children are already being sold images and ideas about the expectations of genders, and for women, one of these expectations is to appear polished, presenting the ‘best’ physical version of yourself. Why can’t we tell them that? Why are we hesitant to be transparent with them about this reality? Perhaps if we talk openly about this, engaging in some hard conversations, (not to mention attempt to model what it’s like to truly be comfortable in our own skins), our daughters and sons will grow up with the ability to critically think about the images and ideas they’re being sold.

empathy

And in the midst of those conversations, maybe we can move beyond the media’s depiction of beauty to talking about what it means to be whole and beautiful, not simply a shell and beautiful. We can talk about the beauty in:

  • Wisdom, sharing stories about our grandmothers.
  • A great sense of humour, and how laughter can brighten the darkest situations.
  • A genuine smile. One that reflects contentment and shines through your eyes, not simply your teeth.
  • A heart that is kind, choosing to see the best in people, even when they are at their worst.
  • Empathy and compassion, emphasizing that the world needs more examples of this.
  • The life Christ lived. Whether you believe in Jesus or not, observing His example and how he treated people encompasses all of the above points…

And maybe, just maybe, as we start having these conversations with our daughters and sons, we will think more critically too. We will remember that wisdom, humour, authenticity, kindness, empathy, compassion… are all more important than our shell. So while we still may choose to wear make-up or colour our hair, our value won’t be found in and through that.

Our antithesis will be the whole version of beautiful and how to share that with others.

Whole and Beautiful

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A Culture in Need of Substance

Those that know me, know that I detest the culture that we live in — a culture that celebrates superficial success in relation to that which has substance. It’s not hard to find examples of this. A simple trip to the grocery store ensures that while you’re going through the check-out, you can catch up on the latest celebrity gossip. The VERY important who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Miley Cyrus VMA's

  • Who’s lost and/or gained weight.
  • Who’s leaving who for someone else.
  • Who’s got the best and/or worst bikini body.
  • Who’s wearing what.
  • What you should and/or shouldn’t wear.
  • What products will make you happy.
  • What pushed [insert generic celebrity name here] over the edge.
  • When [insert generic celebrity name here] found out he and/or she cheated.
  • When [insert generic celebrity name here] found out she was pregnant.
  • Why the relationship ended.
  • Why he/she cheated.
  • Why she wanted a baby.
  • How-to look younger.
  • How-to look thinner.
  • How-to dress for your body type.
  • How to…

While I won’t deny that I enjoy looking at some of the Best-Dressed photographs, I do find myself annoyed that there is very little substance represented in these magazines. Why? Because it perpetuates several bad things.

1. It breeds insecurity

While these magazines harshly criticize those that are supposed to be the most beautiful people on the planet, they also set an unrealistic standard for us regular women to follow. Further to this, the extreme emphasis on how we are supposed to look perpetuates feelings of inadequacy about our external appearance.

2. It makes us judgemental

If magazines have the right to criticize celebrities, aren’t we entitled to as well? And aren’t we entitled to criticize those around us? The truth is, if magazines were evaluating individuals about their stances on issues like poverty, human trafficking, climate change, or some other global problem, I might find merit in their evaluation and criticism. Instead, they assail female celebrities for wearing the wrong shorts – socks combination, or celebrate when someone goes off the deep-end (see Britney Spears’ 2007 fiasco). And when we read and see what’s happening in Hollywood, we feel entitled to assail that girl in the mall, or a coworker, or our ex’s new girlfriend.

Why aren’t we scrutinizing over things that matter?

3. It skews reality

What we view in magazines is a strategically marketed end result that is designed to achieve a specific purpose. Since it his highly marketed, edited, polished, etc., it’s not a true reflection of reality.

4.  It distracts us

There are SO many more important issues in the world that we should be thinking about instead of fretting over whether we reach a ridiculous standard of beauty, or celebrating the fact that someone else’s life is a complete train-wreck, making us feel better about ourselves.

5. It makes us superficial

I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point. If you still don’t know why it makes us superficial [and why that’s not a good thing], you have missed the whole point of this post. Sad day for you, and a sad day for me.

***After writing this post, I came across a fantastic article “written” by CNN.com’s Managing Editor, Meredith Artley, which has nicely solidified my point.***

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