By Margaret Page
If I said that grass is green, or that tree is beautiful, you’d look at me with blank, open acknowledgment… yes, this is true. The grass is green. That tree is great. You probably wouldn’t feel the need to argue if it’s green enough or beautiful enough… you’d likely just nod and accept it.
But, tell a North American woman she is beautiful and in a split second you will see a gust of feelings sweep across her face: gratitude, surprise, doubt, disagreement, blushing, looking away, even nervousness.
Relaxed acceptance? Not so much.
In case you’re wondering, yes – I am speaking from experience as much as observation. Like so many other women, self-acceptance has been a lifelong journey, one of introspection and struggle, aspiration and realization. Some consider it an advanced course in the classroom of life. In my experience, the teachings come and find us in the most unexpected moments.
Years ago, I had a small surgical procedure to reduce the bags around my eyes. Being a discrete sort of woman, I didn’t care to share this personal decision with anyone.
However, when my adult daughter came to visit for Christmas, she happened to open my junk drawer. There, in plain sight, were the after-care instructions from my surgery. I watched her blink silently as she absorbed what I had done. Then she turned to me with surprise and tears in her eyes. “Why, Mom?” she asked. “You are so beautiful!”
I’m sure I must have mumbled an answer, although I can’t remember it today. But I know my words felt empty. Somehow, no matter what I said, I simply couldn’t reconcile my surgery with the message of self-acceptance that I had always encouraged her to embrace.
Even today, so many years later, I still ask myself, “Did I unwittingly model poor self-acceptance to my daughter?” The very idea makes me cringe with regret. Fortunately, it also forced me to explore some very important questions.
For starters: Why is it so hard for women to recognize or accept our own natural beauty?
What’s worse, we actively resist it! Deflecting compliments left and right, women habitually argue for our flaws (oh, I’m too chubby to be beautiful) and compare ourselves to movie stars (I’ll never be a Catherine Hepburn), dismissing our attributes with a nod to the digitally-altered posters.
Isn’t there is something so sad about women habitually denying our beauty? Women everywhere – the essence of femininity, inherently beautiful and soft and receptive – are dismissing our undeniable birthright: the right to see and appreciate ourselves in all our feminine glory!
Instead, we hold our natural, gorgeous selves up against the impossibly perfect standards of fashion, Photoshop and cosmetology, and instead of feeling naturally glorious, we feel like we never quite measure up.
And the saddest thing about this tendency? It’s occurring on a massive scale. Women all across North America are united in the belief, “I am not good enough.” Don’t believe me? Check the facts:
Three minutes looking at a fashion magazine makes 70% of women, of all ages, feel depressed, guilty and shameful.
Nine out of 10 girls regularly use cosmetics by age 14.
The number of women who say they are “sometimes or always on a diet”: college age 91%; high school 40-60%; 9-11 year olds 46%.
The average North American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 lbs. The average model is 5’11” and weighs 115 lbs.
The amount North Americans spent on cosmetic surgery in 2007: $13 Billion. (The estimated cost for basic nutrition and healthcare in developing nations: $13 Billion.)
Take a moment to digest this information. The promise of a “better” appearance has us so mesmerized, collectively, that half of our prepubescent girls are actively trying to modify their bodies. Three quarters of women feel genuinely inadequate – within three minutes! – when reading a magazine full of digitally perfected images.
What’s wrong with this picture? A LOT! Clearly, somewhere along the way, we bought into a skewed set of values, where an artificial sense of beauty can severely compromise our feelings of worth.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Submit your comments below and let’s talk about it.
About the Author:
Margaret Page is a Vancouver-based etiquette and protocol consultant who helps people adopt proper etiquette skills to advance their careers and improve their lives. Margaret delivers energizing keynotes, motivational presentations and inspiring workshops on a variety of topics such as Shine from the Inside Out!; Your Passions! Your Goals! Your Future! and Sparkle! Why? Because You Can!
You can find Margaret online at Etiquette Page, on Facebook and you can follow her on Twitter @etiquettepage.