I have wondered for a long time about whatever happened to my games, toys, and the bicycle from my childhood. I remember my favorite blue case that held all the beautiful outfits for my dolls, including the shoes that wouldn't stay on my beautiful Barbie dolls.
Is it silly for me to wonder what happened to my childhood treasures?
When I ran away from home at fourteen, those treasures were left behind. At fifteen, I was allowed access to some of my possessions: clothes, a cassette player, and numerous cassettes and eight-tracks. The games, toys, and bike no longer belonged to me. My books...my diary...no longer belonged to me. I left home...I didn't measure up to the standards set for me by my step-mother. My life didn't even measure up to my imagined lifestyle of my favorite Barbie and Ken dolls.
I remember reading an article denouncing the Barbie doll and her measurements as being anatomically impossible. For decades, the iconic toy was one of the biggest influences on young girls for feminine role play and set the standard for aspiring young woman...but I didn't measure up. Barbie represented a tiny slice of the population: blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and tiny.
Between her very specific features and her very wide audience, her beauty standard was an impossible act to follow. For most children, she was a reference point, not a road map. She was one of the many beauty standards that have made an impact on our definition of pretty.
The modeling industry, as well as marketing firms, have spent billions of dollars trying to frame what beauty looks and feels like. Most images aren’t just attempting to sell you a ‘look’- they are trying to sell you a way of feeling, too. Both the look and the feeling are usually artificial and an impossible standard. The goal in selling you is to make you believe the only way to feel the happiness you see in the images is to look like, own, and engage in the activities you see.
The thing about beauty standards is they change. A look at decades past easily illustrates that nothing stays in favor forever. What’s in one moment is out and considered old school or vintage before long. Plus, everything comes back around again as the new (old) standard. It’s important not to fall into the trap of believing there is a standard of beauty at all.
Who you are and the physical attributes you have are perfect right now - in every season and every trend. You may not feel that every element of what you look like is on-trend now, and you’re right. Maybe freckles are in, maybe they are out. Maybe being curvy is in, maybe it is out. That’s why it is important to be confident in the skin you are in and celebrate your unique attributes, regardless of the trends.
If a beauty standard seems impossible to achieve, it is vital that you recognize it and not allow any expectation to exist. Here are some hidden ways beauty standards are exaggerated and virtually impossible to achieve:
Incredibly thick hair- Many of the thick-haired beauties you see are enhanced by hairpieces and hair extensions. These pieces come in a wide range of quality and price points. Anyone can have thicker hair thanks to this innovation, but celebrities and performers tend to be the biggest users of these products.
Perfect breasts- Whether photoshopped or surgically enhanced, many of the women you admire with small waistlines, narrow hips, and large perfect breasts have been enhanced by man or computer.
Straight, white teeth- Cosmetic dentistry is on the rise. Even braces are becoming obsolete as men and women are opting for caps and laboratory created implants. Teeth whitening is a booming industry, too. From Crest White Strips to cosmetic teeth whitening, those pearly whites you admire may not be natural.
Weight-This one is the oldest standard in the book. Though what is considered attractive has morphed through the years, chances are the standard you admire comes at a high price. From eating disorders to abuse, being thin has disadvantages that do out-weigh the hype of being considered the weight standard.
Wrinkle free- Chemical peels, Botox, and facelifts account for much of the anti-aging phenoms we see. From celebrities who never seem to age to the men and women who seem to get younger every year, being wrinkle free is a standard that most people cannot achieve. While you can take better care of your skin and reduce the signs of aging, wrinkles are going to happen to all of us.
Don’t spend an ounce of time trying to conform to beauty standards that aren’t based in reality. If you want to emulate a look- go for it! Just don’t beat yourself up over your comparison to that standard until you know if the standard is real. Even then, focus on your own standard and do what makes you feel beautiful and confident.
For years I confused society's beauty standards with my own reality. I didn't eat properly...I was a size 0-1...I dyed my hair so much that I didn't know what my natural color was...I know it wasn't the blue, green and purple I used in 2016 to remind me that "It's not time to worry, yet."
But, it isn't time to worry. It is time to put down and release the beauty standards that do not serve you and embrace the beauty of YOU...inside and out. As I learned from Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, "if the culture doesn't fit, don't buy it."
What ridiculous standards are you ready to release?
Embrace your personal beauty. If you're having trouble with this idea, give yourself some grace and choose small incremental steps to make the changes you'd like to see.
An exercise we talk about in A Pilgrimage to Self Lifestyle Coaching Membership is Mirror Work. I was first introduced to Mirror Work by my mentor, Louise Hay. Why not give it a try...I challenge you to 30 days! Look into your mirror, into your own eyes, and tell yourself "I love you." Pay attention to your self-talk because what you think and say become your affirmations, and the affirmations you say to yourself in front of your mirror are very powerful in building self-esteem and confidence.
Use the mirror work exercise to love yourself, compliment and cheer yourself on. You will be supporting yourself, building a new relationship with self, and supporting you...what happens in time, you'll change your thoughts and feelings. You'll connect to your authentic self and create a new norm, a new standard of beauty...for YOU!
Until next time...
P.S. You can learn more about the strategies and exercises we do to design an Intentional Life in my coaching program, A Pilgrimage to Self. The membership opens a few time a year and you can get "insider" information and updates by joining our email list. Here's a link: https://www.ahousewithfourrooms.com/thank-you-for-joining-the-waitlist-for-a-pilgrimage-to-self
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