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Are We Our Own Worst Enemy?

Posted September 24, 2013 by Peggy Harrington in Women's Issues

Starting from a young age girls are told how beautiful they are.

The tomboy, the ballerina, the first grader with glasses, and the girl who may be a few pounds heavier than her skinny best friend are all constantly told that they are perfect the way that they are. These girls, running around without a care in the world, are the true definition of natural beauty. These girls are confident, fearless, and stunning — the very qualities that women of all ages strive to be.

The question that I have for you is simple.

At what point is our natural beauty not enough?

At what point do we feel the need to not celebrate, but mask all of those features that make us unique? For me, I can trace these feelings back to middle school. I distinctly remember feeling self conscious about my wild curls and begging my mom for a hair straightener. I would spend hours trying to achieve the stick straight hairstyle that so many of my friends had, only to end up looking like a frizzy lion. With that being said, I still felt much more comfortable looking like a jungle animal than my curly-topped self.

And, who do we typically blame for women’s skewed perceptions of beauty?

  1.  The Media: It is way too easy to blame these self esteem issues on the media and while I do agree that they should focus more on natural and realistic beauty, I also believe that the media is just an easy target to put the blame on. The reason that they portray beauty in the way that they do is because it’s what their consumers are asking for and striving to be. I grew up idolizing plenty of celebrities from the magazines but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I actually thought that I could look like them.  While I recall wanting Britney Spears lifestyle, it was Kate, my high school classmate’s, hair that I would kill for.
  2. Men: Time after time I hear women go on about how they have to dress and look a certain way to either find a man or keep the one that they already have. This just isn’t true. And, if it happens to be true in your case then he is SO not worth your time or wardrobe budget.  Men aren’t putting this pressure to look a certain way on us, we put it on ourselves. You can spend a month picking out the perfect BCBG dress to wear to an event and I can assure you that your guy will only remember it as “a black dress.” Betsey Johnson sums it up well by stating how “Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves and, of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys they’d just walk around naked at all times.” I am sure that if you asked any man he would be genuinely confused as to why women are always so concerned about their appearance and adamantly deny that he is the one to blame. I hate to say it, but I agree with him!

So WHO IS responsible for making my simple question so complicated?

We are.

As women we put this pressure on not only ourselves, but also on the other women in our lives. We set these high standards that most of us spend our whole lives trying to achieve. Instead of telling each other that we are perfect the way that we are, like our mothers have always told us, we compliment each other on new and expensive hair do’s, intricate makeup and facial procedures; thus encouraging it.

We are our own worst critics and we need to stop.

My mom has always told me not to wear heavy makeup all the time because then that becomes the norm and people will expect that version of you all the time. The girl who is really turning heads is the one who normally showcases her natural beauty but will turn on the “wow factor” for special occasions.

We have the power to make these beauty expectations much more realistic, we just have to find the confidence to do so. Once we, everyday women, redefine our definition of beauty to that natural beauty that we were praised for as young girls, the media will have no choice but to follow suit.

As women, I would love to see us revert back to a time where faces were more bare, heels lower, skirts longer, and judgments a lot less harsh. 

About the Author

Peggy Harrington

Peggy Harrington is a bubbly and multitasking senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She is thrilled to be the Events Marketing Specialist for Career Girl Network. Peggy loves fashion, working out, planning fabulous events and traveling! She is currently a Style Guru for CollegeFashionista and writes a post for the What to Wear column every Thursday. Peggy lives her life according to one of her favorite quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson which states that “nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”