Sunday, 20 May 2012
22. Mirror mirror on the wall
The subject matter du jour pertains to the way we see ourselves and how terribly harsh our self-critique is. The beauty and fashion industry, and the pressures that are placed on women – both by themselves and by society – don’t help. As a 40-something woman who makes a bona fide effort to not look like the bedraggled ‘homemaker’ I sometimes feel like; I am frustrated at the images I see in the media, and the tsunami of distorted representations of what we (ie women) should look like and aspire to.
Impossibly skinny models (who are pressured to exist on air) parading clothes the average woman could never dream of fitting into, and preciously young girls being offered up as “what we could look like” if we bought a certain anti-ageing face serum. I find myself thinking, “Of course she looks like that! She is only 20-something!” And don’t start me on all the air-brushing and Photoshop editing that takes place!
I was having dinner with girlfriends a couple of nights ago and we talked about why so few of us are happy with what we see in the mirror? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Both these girlfriends are gorgeous and the ‘imperfections’ they talked about overhauling were undetectable to my eye. “But we’re only 40-something!” I protested. “Surely we don’t need to resort to such drastic measures till we are 50-something!” The problem is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no matter how much I told them they didn’t need any ‘work’ done, their appearance was defective in their own mind.
But I am no different in my private self critique. Psychologically so screwed up that when I catch my reflection or see myself in pictures, “fat” is the first thought that comes to mind. Ah, but years of childhood conditioning will do that to you! So, no surprise there. But let’s not forget those dark age spots, wrinkles, monster pores, and scars that co-exist alongside my sagging jaw and eyelids! And yet, I am too filled with cynicism to buy those exorbitant ‘miracle’ face serums, and too scared of pain and fearful of a botched job to resort to surgery. And so I manage by avoiding mirrors, only gazing at my reflection to ensure nothing is going to scare the living daylights out of some poor soul – AND to make sure I have not ‘saved’ any part of my meal in plain sight of my two front teeth! But when it simply cannot be avoided, I try to celebrate the parts of my body I do like. My lips. My wrists. My legs. Oh, and my collarbones!
But seriously, although I am well aware I am no supermodel and, try as I may, will NEVER regain my pre-pregnancy weight no matter how much I exercise (unlike some of my genetically-blessed friends!), as a mother to three daughters, I HAVE to promote a healthy self-image and self-love – if only for their sake.
So I try my best to lead by example. Through action and attitude. I talk to my girls about listening to their bodies, about balance, and loving who they are; focusing on the positives and being thankful for all that they are and have. I educate and illustrate the importance and benefits of nourishing not just the body but also the mind. And though all this self-love can sometimes feel quite alien, with practise, I may one day believe in my own self the way I fervently believe in my girls.