Appearance: (noun) the way in which a person’s physicals attributes make up their image, and of which there is only one correct and desirable form.
You know what’s pretty shit? Gaining weight.
Even though there’s no inherent reason for a few extra pounds to take over your life and haunt your mind, that’s just the way it seems to go. We live in a world centered on appearance.
So yeah, in the last little while I’ve found myself feeling a little out of sorts. My jeans are a little tighter and I find myself picking up the bigger size in the shops. I go through more outfit changes than usual before a night out, because it takes me longer to find something I feel comfortable and confident in. And the harsh reality? No one else has probably even noticed.
Growing up a young woman in today’s world means we’re highly skilled in a multitude of areas; we know which bra to wear for which outfit, we can apply makeup seamlessly in a moving vehicle, and we can pick out our flaws from a mile away – without a mirror.
From a young age, we learn that there are two important things in life; how you look, and how to make sure you look right. We watched the shows and read the books and the studied the chart that preached how to dress for your body shape, which, no matter what type of fruit you resembled, always ended up in making sure you looked as slim as possible. After all, that was the end goal, wasn’t it?
And it still is today. Being slim, tall and toned is still viewed as the ideal, the dream bod, the hashtag goals on Instagram. And more often than not, we are the first people to tell ourselves if we haven’t reached that goal.
I wore a pair of black, high-waisted jeans last week. The ol’ reliables, that suck you in and smooth you down. I wore them a few days in a row, then switched – gasp! – to blue high-waisted jeans, and it all went downhill from there.
“God, these make me look so fat”, I said, looking at myself in the mirror. I was wearing the exact same piece of clothing, in the same pattern, but just a different colour, and it seemed to have put a stone on me. I was lamenting this sudden weight gain and considering changing the jeans when my boyfriend turned to me and said, “it just looks like you’re wearing jeans”.
He had no clue what I was talking about. He had no idea about how black is infintely more slimming than any other colour out there, and that it always looks good in jeans (amirite ladies?). He couldn’t see what I was seeing in the mirror; to him, I looked exactly the same, just wear a pair of blue jeans on.
This is what years and years of “X Celeb Spotted Wearing No Make Up!” and “This Year’s Wobbly Bum Selection At The Beach!” and “Who Wore It Better?” and “Dress For Your Shape!” and “Let Us Highlight Another Way Women Have Failed To Meet The Incredibly High Standards That We Have Set For Them!” headlines have taught us. Women my age, older and, sadly, younger than me, have learned that women in their natural state are not good enough. We have perfected how to critique, and we are our favourite subject.
We pick apart our body, denouncing that this part is too big or too small or too freckly, until there’s nothing left to love. Why? We have been force-fed, for years, one, single image that we are supposed to emulate, and we have seen first-hand how people react to women who fail to do so.
With articles and the media bashing and being unnecessarily cruel and harsh about women just being women, whether that falls in line with what society deems attractive or not, we have absorbed those reactions, and they have become our reflex.
We know what we’re supposed to look like, and when the mirror does not provide us with that image, it’s our own fault. We point out each and every thing on our body that’s “wrong”.
We are trained to be so critical, so cruel to ourselves. We anaylse every aspect of our body, and only praise it when it falls in line with what we’ve been taught looks good. Yet if we grew up in a different world, or a different era, our idea of attractive would be so different.
This is what gets me; we don’t even know what we like. We need to be told what is attractive. As trends change and different body shapes and styles come to the fore front, so too does the standard for women. It’s tiring trying to figure out what we should look like now, and it’s painful being this harsh on ourselves when all we want is to feel good in ourselves.
I’m trying my hardest to remember that what I *Joey finger quotes* should look like, is arbitrary. There is no real reason why I feel the pressure have to look that way, or to avoid mirrors when I don’t.
It’s unfair that men get away with wearing shitty suits and ill-fitting shirts and ugly runners to work, while we’re chastised if we wear something that’s too revealing, or our body shape doesn’t “suit” this outfit.
How come they get to wear whatever they want? Who, in god’s name, let men collectively get blonde tips for the better part of a century? Why don’t they get the same look when they don’t wear make-up to work?
I’ll call it again: bullshit.
I wish I could be easier on myself. I wish I could forget everything I’ve ever heard, seen or learned about women’s bodies and let me to come to my own conclusion about how I want to look.
I wish women worldwide could be easier on themselves. I wish I could be a oblivious as men are when it comes to being a woman right now.
I wish I could put on anything I want, and didn’t feel the need to tuck in, suck in and when that doesn’t work, change completely. The outfit, my style, myself.
So let’s be a little less harsh on ourselves, shall we? We don’t really deserve it. It’s a bit uncalled for, if I’m being honest. Let’s try remember that we don’t need to criticise ourselves, or anyone else for that matter.
Yisser are fab, myself included.