Am I pretty? Yes I am!

I'm getting extremely tired/infuriated with society's unrealistic expectations around female beauty. (I know men struggle with this too, but that's a story for another day). 

The pressure to strive for perfection is worsening, thanks to social media (namely Instagram in my opinion) I personally don't know how I would have coped as a teenage girl with this increasingly unrealistic ideology around beauty.

It was bad enough comparing myself to the models in all the stupid Dolly and Girlfriend magazines back then, let alone being bombarded by it constantly, as girls are today.

Having a teenage daughter myself and witnessing her already becoming self-conscious of her body and looks is heart-breaking.

All I can do is try and reinforce the fact that she is unique and she is beautiful-just as she is. It's difficult. I need to take my own advice, as their are things about my own body I would like to change, e.g the silvery stretch marks which creep across my thighs or the dimple-inducing cellulite on my b&%#.

My stomach is the worst, it's the polar opposite of tanned and toned. However I need to remind myself it's housed two babies and many many wheels of camembert. Enough with the self-loathing, we need to self-love! I am going to try and practice what I preach and embrace my own imperfections! P.S. I like my eyes...that's loving thy self.

I talked to three Dunedin women about their views on the expectations put upon women today.
 
Cassie
Cassie Campbell. Photo Model Citizen Photography
Cassie Campbell. Photo Model Citizen Photography
How do you feel about societies expectations of women to be thin and beautiful? 
It is incredibly unfair. Everyone was created different and unique, and there is a reason for that - how boring would life be if we all looked like that gorgeous size 4, 5'8 blue eyed blonde? As much as we want too, it is unachievable for most! 
 
If you'd been a teenager during this time-where social media is saturated with images of perfection, how do you think you would have coped?
Everywhere is saturated with images of perfection - even before social media! You never see ugly or plus size people reading the news for instance. Being a plus size teenager was very hard! It is an age where no one wants to stand out for a negative reason. You care so much what others think of you. I had a very hard time being big at high school anyway, as nowhere was really equipped for the bigger lass. For instance, for my 3rd form dance, I had to hire a bridesmaid dress, as there was just nothing available that would have been suitable for my size, where everyone else could go in the latest trends and fashions. 
 
As an adult women, what would you say to the teenage you to help her deal with the expectations around body image?
Learn to dress to enjoy and accentuate what you have. It is okay that you don't fit the same clothes that your friend does. It is okay that you look different! You are still beautiful, smart, and have a wicked sense of humour! And just remember, you will be warmer in winter then the people with less insulation! 
 
How do you feel about your body? What are your favourite and least favourite parts?
To be honest I like most of it. With having losing weight recently however, I have developed quite a big lower belly - and I hate this! It's not really a place that can be toned, eating better won't make it go away. I love wearing fitted clothes and flaunting/enjoying what I have, as it's a point of difference to the next person. I love that my waist is smaller than my boobs and my hips! 
 
What do you do to make yourself feel good about your body?
I train hard! I don't necessarily train to lose weight, but train to be fit and healthy and to be able to chase my kids around the house, and look good in clothes. I also have my hair regularly done, and my eyebrows waxed. I take care in my make-up, and I rest. I take some me time in the bath with candles and relaxing music to wind down. Our lives are just so busy now, that we need to stop and smell the roses a little more. 
 
Would you ever consider cosmetic surgery/image enhancement? If so what would you get done?
Yes!!!! I would dearly love for my boobs to not touch my knees! Okay, so not quite that bad, but I would love a breast augmentation, and possibly made a little smaller. Also for my lower tummy to be cut off. I dislike my underarm fat as well, I hate that they wave bye after I've stopped waving!! But realistically, I don't see myself being in a position for this to be possible, so I will just continue trying to love the skin I am in.
 
Do you ever leave the house without make-up? If so why/why not and how do you feel doing that?
I quite often leave the house without make-up. I only wear make-up if I'm going out out, but mostly to work I don't wear any, or only a bit of mascara. I don't live my life to impress anyone else. I certainly don't leave the house to look hot, plus it takes far too much time and energy to do that with 3 kids! No time! 
Also...if you don't wear it often, it lasts longer - therefore saves you money! Better living everyone!! I feel ok in my own skin and that I don't need to hide my imperfections for my work roles, and feel confident in my ability. I don't need to look pretty to work well, but when I am going out with girlfriends etc I want to emphasise what I have, so the make-up definitely gets caked on then! 
 
How do you think we can change societies unrealistic ideals of female beauty?
I think society is already changing for the good. I think people need to realise that even though someone may be over-weight, that are not always unhealthy. You never know someone's story by looking at them, so we as humans really need to stop judging others, and just love ourselves more! Having more models around that are average sizes, instead of incredibly thin, or very large will help too. People just need to realise that everyone is beautiful, no matter what their size, shape, gender or nationality. Having plus size people in magazines more - without spelling out they are plus size! Stores that cater for all sizes, instead of ones for small sizes, and speciality stores for plus sizes. We will get there, one step at a time. 
 
Sakura
Sakura Aoki-Danielson
Sakura Aoki-Danielson
How do you feel about societies expectations of women to be thin and beautiful? 
This outdated and very twisted ideology of femininity has been around for as long as I can remember,  however I do not agree that this is an accurate portrayal held by the NZ society, particularly now in the 21st century. As a feminist, I continue to be disgusted that collectively, our society as a whole, has failed to properly evolve from narrow mindset. I am a firm believer that beauty is within, and these shallow societal expectations fail to take into account that happiness, health and kindness is what makes any of us beautiful.  
 
If you'd been a teenager during this time, where social media is saturated with images of perfection, how do you think you would have coped?
What each person interprets as an images of perfection will vary from person to person, and as a teenager I was always aware of the power of photoshop, and how short lived a models career is, and so social media influencers who purely branded themselves by their physical appearance would not have bothered me. 
 
As an adult woman, what would you say to the teenage you to help her deal with the expectations around body image?
Beauty without intelligence, is a masterpiece painted on a napkin.
 
What do you do to make yourself feel good about your body?
"Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy." I can confirm this to be true. I was never particularly great at sports, slash quite frankly I'm terrified of the ball and have zero hand-eye co-ordination, but I have found a new love for the Les Mills group fitness classes.  I feel AMAZING after every class, and I feel great knowing that I am giving back to my body, by becoming stronger, fitter and healthier. 
 
Would you ever consider cosmetic surgery/image enhancement? If so what would you get done?
I've always joked about getting butt implants, but would I ever go through with it! 
 
Olivia
Olivia Jory
Olivia Jory
 
 
How do you feel about societies expectations of women to be thin and beautiful? 
I think that society shows these terms as synonymous which I don't believe is right. The perception that thin is beautiful and to be beautiful you must be thin really sets a negative image for the majority of people who don't fit the stereotype.
 
If you'd been a teenager during this time-where social media is saturated with images of perfection, how do you think you would have coped?
In short, I don't think I would have. I was a teen when social media was coming through and now our daily lives are saturated with it, I just wouldn't want to even imagine what it would be like now in those developing years.
 
As an adult woman, what would you say to the teenage you to help her deal with the expectations around body image?
I would have told myself to stop comparing myself to others. I was really unrealistic in my expectations of myself, like wanting to weigh less like my friends, but not taking into account I was a few inches taller and a completely different build. I think it all results from my involvement in gymnastics which wasn't a great place for self love. On that note, I probably would have told myself to quit gym as I wasn't doing it for the love of the sport but rather to help get an ideal body. I'd also probably yell at myself and say ffs wear that bikini girl!
 
How do you feel about your body? What are your favourite and least favourite parts?
I'd say I have a love hate relationship with my body which is weighted more negatively. It's something that I'm working on, and as I grow my perception of myself has changed. I guess I now try to see my body as not just an object that I have to change. Instead of thinking oh god my thighs are big I need to change that, I'm like yeah my thighs are big and that's ok because they are strong.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my stomach which I loathe, it never has and never will be flat like all them models and I just can't seem to shake that desire. I have however always really liked my green eyes and am quite blessed with olive skin (thanks mum) but I cant help feeling vain for liking those parts of me.
 
What do you do to make yourself feel good about your body?
I exercise, I think it's more than just a physical, but mental thing too that just makes me feel good. Its something I do for me and only me.
 
Would you ever consider cosmetic surgery/image enhancement? If so what would you get done?
I started getting botox at the age of 23 as a preventative measure and I will likely keep it up. I'm really blind so that's caused some killer frown lines which I used to get self-conscious about and Botox helped that 100%. I've also had my teeth whitened which was horrific, definitely not worth the pain. I guess on a more surgical note If I had a million dollars id definitely look further into cosmetic surgery, I'm always joking about lipo and getting my lips done-if that will ever happen I'm not too sure.
 
Do you ever leave the house without make-up? If so why/why not and how do you feel doing that?
Yes! I did it this morning when I headed out for breakfast then went to a class. I guess I didn't feel it necessary to wear make-up but mostly I like to let my skin breathe as ive been blessed with adult acne and make-up every day isn't great for it. I guess at times I get pretty conscious especially in really public places about how I look and my scarring because ive always had really good skin and I guess make-up does act as a safety blanket for me in some ways.
 
How do you think we can change societies unrealistic ideals of female beauty?
I think we need to start by not buying into it- literally. Stop buying the tabloids that are self-destructive ways to change yourself- not always for the better. Don't buy that beauty product because someone told you to- buy it because you want to. I also think realistic representations in the media (although becoming more frequent) needs to become more normalized. I really am more of a follower but talking about how unrealistic expectations are in regards to beauty standards and more so the effects it can have especially on young impressionable girls is important.
 
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Comments

These issues concern stereotyping and social conformity, which are also part of gender studies, Dept Sociology. So good. File this column to 'Campus', as well.

Told off? Ha, young lady. No one has ever said to you "Get your hair cut, boy! You don't belong in Nashville, er, I mean Ilam!"

Thought provoking article...thank you for promoting thought

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