Since I can remember, my value as a human being has had a lot to do with the way I look. This is what it’s like to be female in this society or possibly planet. The first compliment to come out of someone’s mouth has always been about being pretty; not smart or funny or any other deeper quality. But for the record, I just want to say that I am more than my hair, more than my blue eyes, more than my shape, more than my skin.
However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be pretty. Of course I do. I wear makeup. I get my nails done. My hair is colored. I strive daily to lose weight. I wear clothes that show off my shape and heels that make me taller. I’m all in on beauty. My thirst for it has never been quenched. I will never not want to be pretty.
Yet, no matter what I do or what I restrict, I still have doubts. As I get older, the doubts are looming larger. Although I’ve been told I’m pretty thousands of times, it’s not something I say to myself very often.
What I can and do say to myself is that I am smart, creative, accomplished, ambitious and a fighter. These qualities have nothing to do with what I look like. I know I am these things because of what I have achieved. I worked hard to be these things. They are much harder to question than beauty. I should probably be more pleased. Maybe I’m not because when I look in the mirror, these qualities aren’t easy to see. All the things wrong with the way I look are.
I still want to be more than my body. I made a decision about 10 years ago to do something that many women wouldn’t. I had a breast reduction. I’m pretty sure breast enhancement is the most sought after surgery, and here I was wanting them to be smaller! But there were a lot of horrible things about having such a large chest. No matter what I wore, all you could see or focus on was my chest. I’m not sure if anyone ever looked me in the eye. My shoulders and back hurt all the time. I couldn’t wear any type of shirt that was a button up. I once had to order a dress four sizes too big to get it to fit my chest. By the end of alterations, there was enough material for another dress. It was miserable.
Luckily my insurance paid for it because they realized this was a real health concern. The surgery itself was fine. It was outpatient. What took the longest to heal from was just being able to reach out my arms. I have scars. They aren’t so bad 10 years later but still apparent. Depending on what I have on, you can see them. But it changed my life for the better. Now, my chest fits the rest of my body. My neck and back hurt a lot less. I can wear clothes I never could before. It was truly one of the best decisions I ever made.
But I think I’m on the minority on this one. But to me, my breasts don’t make me a woman. They are simply part of my anatomy. I’d even prefer them to be smaller. They just get in the way sometimes. My breasts don’t have any purpose like being a vessel to feed a baby. Even though most men seem to be obsessed with them (unless of course they prefer another body part), I could care less. If I never had to wear a bra again, I’d be happy.
I’m not sure how women get past being more than their bodies. Men often won’t let us. But we share some of that blame as well. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be proud of their bodies. Show it off if you want. Pose nude if you want. I’m not condemning or judging anyone. I just want the conversation to move forward. I want women to be viewed just as much by what’s inside than outside. I’m not sure what kind of shift will need to happen so that this can be the norm. My hunch is when more women become leaders and are truly treated equally – meaning we get the same pay and the same opportunities – a shift may occur. It’s amazing to think that at 50% of the population, we are still the inferior sex. Many men still want us to think this (been called sweetie or honey lately?), but women do, too. If we don’t believe in ourselves then there’s no way we will ever leave the shadow of men.
So my ask of you, brilliant, feisty women is to really believe we are more than our bodies. It doesn’t mean we have to stop wanting to be pretty. It just means we need to want everything else, too.