After reading this section you might just say to yourself, “Didn’t I think of that? It makes total sense!”
Culturally, there has been a belief that a woman’s appearance is one of the most—if not the most—valuable things about her. In media and society, we see a lot of emphasis placed on women looking a certain way, comparing them to that impossible supermodel standard. The current cultural approach to beauty comes from a place of shame: shame that you’re not good enough, that you’re flawed, and that you use clothes and beauty products to make up for deficiencies that you’ll never fully be able to compensate for.
The fashion world has failed us in many ways because it was built on that belief and that shame. It is an ever-changing system of fashion trends and styles that dictate which clothes a woman should wear in order to feel valuable. It does not give us the insight into the truth of who we are, or the tools we need to bring out our greatest beauty as women. However, the ever-changing fashion trends do work to create demand—demand to purchase the latest fashions—in women who do not know what works best for them, or what they really want, which is possibly the majority of women in the Western world.
Think about it for a moment. From the beginning of recorded history, fashion has separated those who have money from those who have little or no money, and thereby created social classes— separation and lack and envy and turned-up noses.
You can’t put on beauty unless it reflects the beauty you recognize inside yourself
Current fashion magazines have become a form of entertainment, and in some cases bizarre art, showing women in outfits that the everyday woman would never wear. The fashion system has not and will never even attempt to teach us the skills and tools to honor our true nature and our unique physical traits so we can express our true beauty. Rather, it has left us guessing. Shaming ourselves into being the problem, and keeping us on the treadmill of chasing the latest trends, only to buy more clothes with more and more uncertainty.
We have blamed ourselves and our physical traits for not looking great in the clothes that we are lured to purchase by a fashion culture with an insatiable appetite for trends and change. Who in the world thought that the latest fashion trend could look great on every woman? Since we all have different bodies, face shapes, and personalities, we can’t all look great in the same clothes. Fashion trends and styles are focused on clothes, not a woman’s thoughts, feelings, personality, and all the other things that make her the unique woman that she is. So women go into dressing rooms and get discouraged when the latest trends don’t seem to look good on them. What’s really happening is the clothes aren’t expressing the truth of the woman inside them. The problem is the system, not the woman.
The current fashion system teaches us how to put on beauty, not how to bring out our true beauty. I’ve learned that when you feel insecure about how you look, and try to put on your look or your beauty, you can become intimidated by other women—especially women who seem naturally amazing and beautiful. These insecurities get stirred up when you’re still trying to put beauty’ on. You can’t put on beauty unless it reflects the beauty you recognize inside yourself.
When you see a woman who looks fashionable, you are usually seeing a woman who is putting beauty’ on. You see the clothes first, then the woman! When you see a woman dressing her truth, you see the woman first, then the inspiring ensemble of clothing, jewelry, makeup, and hair supporting her real nature. What she has on her body looks like a natural extension of her true self, her true beauty’.
I believe very few women care passionately about fashion, but I believe every woman deeply cares about being authentically beautiful, expressing the truth of who she is, inside and out.
Hating how you look
As I was going through some old pictures to find the images I wanted to share in this book, I was startled by something I discovered. As I mentioned earlier, I hated how boyish my thick, bold, bushy eyebrows made me look when I was in seventh grade. But had forgotten what I was about to see, so when I came across my picture in my seventh grade yearbook, I was shocked. I had taken a pen and completely scratched out my image! The picture of me was taken before I had my private eyebrow-plucking session.
The disdain and embarrassment I felt for trying to make my boyish looks more feminine were very powerfully witnessed to me by this act of scratching out my picture when I was 13. I really did hate how I looked. Looking back and reflecting on this now—almost 40 years later—brought me to tears and got me even more fired up to change what we do to ourselves as women and to expose where the fault lies.
Let me say this really clearly: the fault does not lie with us as women. It is in the system of fashion and beauty that we have blindly accepted and have been convinced is acceptable since our pre-teen days. We have not paused to question it. It is like a slow, torturous drip of false programming that starts in a female’s life somewhere between the ages of 10 and 13. It sets us up to believe that if we don’t conform to a certain standard of what looks “good” in the current trends and styles, the fault is in our body and physical appearance, not in the system itself.
When I came across pictures of myself at 15, when I weighed 150 pounds, I was also suiprised and shocked. I saw myself in a whole new light. I was not overweight by reasonable, healthy standards. Yes, I had a more athletic build and was more muscular (definitely not the skinny girl) but what I saw was a perfectly healthy teenage girl!
I am convinced that my imbalanced belief and perception at that stage was the catalyst to develop an eating disorder in the next couple of years, which ultimately caused me to gain more weight. If I had had a healthy view of myself then, sustained by sound beliefs, I never would have developed those patterns and likely would have avoided 30 years of body image despair.
Like most girls, I accepted these false beliefs about my body image and appearance that came from media-based fashion and beauty standards. I compared myself to them, like most other girls, and fully accepted the lie that I was not thin enough or pretty enough and that it was my fault. I now know the standard I measured myself against was seriously flawed.