This afternoon I sat on the soft leather sofa in my therapists office, and she was asking me what I valued most in life. I immediately listed off what felt to me like the normal things: my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my work (helping others), and my beliefs. I felt like I was done and was silently read over the list. There was a brief pause as she turned and looked at me.
“Well,” I hesitated, “can I put myself up there?”
“Heather, you should be up at the top of this list!”
She went on to discuss with me why I didn’t add myself to the list initially. I honestly wanted to add it, but decided against it because I felt like it sounded selfish. So, the question is: why did I feel selfish to value myself?
Of course I KNOW I have value, but it has bothered me all day since my appointment why that played out the way it did. Why wouldn’t I consider myself just as valuable as everything else on my list? I have been trying to peel away the onion layers of this, and although there’s still so much to understand, I think I’m on the right track.
From a young age, girls are bombarded by the “standards of beauty”. I remember staring at the half-dressed emaciated models on the covers of magazines at checkout stands around age 6 and thinking they looked strange, but as a teenager those women suddenly became who I wanted to be and look like.
So, when I was an awkward teen in middle school, the Delia’s magazine was huge, (anyone else remember this? Or does this totally age me?). I remember scoring through its pages coveting all the clothes inside. I felt like such a loser because I didn’t have the clothes, but also because I wasn’t tall and super skinny like the models. This was during the time when my mom was hospitalized with her terminal cancer, so even was she was home, she was not able to help me with makeup and clothes. I was often depressed and some days just flat out hated myself because I didn’t feel like I was beautiful since I didn’t fit these standards.
I will give the fashion industry credit. Things have come a long way since then, but it’s still bad. With the added sources of social media, it seems that “fashion FOMO” and body issues are even worse now. I don’t want my daughter to feel like I did, but I know that navigating that with how many sources of content there are today is going to be rough.
But WHO decided that these are the set standards? I would like to have some cross words with them, or maybe just punch them in the throat for good measure. There shouldn’t be one set of these ridiculous “beauty standards” simply because not every woman is the same. The fact that everyone is different makes this world beautiful. Being the same as everyone else is not.
I know you’re all familiar with this campaign that went viral just a few weeks ago. It was heartbreaking to see how many women, (and men), I know who posted the status. I am very sad to say I am also among those who posted it. I was sexually assaulted by a guy I knew my freshman year of college and when I tried to report it, I was threatened by not only him but his friends and people who I thought were my friends. He was on a football scholarship, and this could potentially “ruin his career”. It was a hot pile of garbage is what it was. Rape culture at it’s finest.
Recently Hollywood seems to be imploding with the scandals of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Casey Affleck, Louis C.K, and many others I’m sure that will come out who have all raped or sexually assaulted women. There is one thing in common with all these stories: that the women felt like they couldn’t come out with what happened to them because they were scared, or were perceived to be liars, or were quietly paid off so that they would not tell. It’s this that makes my blood boil more than anything. The fact that we as women are viewed by so many in this world to not have value. Women are viewed as these sexual objects for men to do with what they want, and then we cannot say anything about it.
The world has always exploited women. We are told to look a certain way and act a certain way. Women are praised or judged by what they look like or what they are wearing. It’s rarely for our intellect and achievements. Obviously this isn’t true for the world as a whole, and even though women’s rights have come so far, we still have such a long way to go. Have you ever noticed in tabloids it always talks about what the women are wearing? Women are constantly “flaunting” their bodies, instead of just simply walking down a street living her daily life. Magazines rarely talk about men the same way. Women are perceived as these sexual objects and nothing more.
But here’s the double standard. If a woman dresses more modestly or acts so, she’s suddenly a “prude”, but if she is comfortable with herself to flaunt it and dress a little more revealing suddenly she’s a “whore”. Why is that? Why can’t a girl or woman choose what she wants to do with her own body and let that be that? “My body, my choice” am I right?
So many guys in high school would either never ask me out again, or not even pursue me romantically because I chose to save myself until marriage and wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Since when is that bad? I hope if those boys I knew ever have daughters, that they never have to deal with boys treating her the way they treated girls in high school. Hopefully karma doesn’t teach them a hard lesson.
What’s In a Value?
Last Sunday I got to teach a group of teenage girls from ages 12-18 at my local LDS church. In this lesson, I taught them that no matter what happens, that they still have worth in this world. Despite what this world will tell us over and over, is that we (as women) have so much value. It’s more than what we wear or what we look like. So much more. So, let’s go back then to the question of why I couldn’t list myself on the list of things I valued.
I know I have value, I knew it when my therapist asked me, but I was just afraid to say it. I’m not going to be afraid to value myself now. I will no longer let the things that have happend to me in the past, or anyone or anything else convince me that I have no value.
My daughter will always be taught by me that she has value, and I will help her navigate through this world that will constantly bombard her with these ridiculous “beauty standards”. Lucky for her, she’s got an entire pride of strong women who will also guide her. Wherever she goes in this life, I know that she is going to have the confidence and knowledge to take her far.
I want to hear your thoughts on this!
The Raw Brunette