Summer usually means I dig into my “light reading.” You know, the fluff and tabloids filled with celebrity updates: Who wore it best, how she lost the baby weight, which actor is dating that model, and who’s rumored to be engaged.
Over the years, I’ve backed away from these magazines and websites. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the more I read about celebrities’ mansions, the more I saw where the Kardashians took their multipronged luxe vacation, the more I felt inadequate. I knew they don’t live the lives of everyday folks, and I knew that they have ridiculous amounts of money — which allows for full teams of stylists, personal trainers, decorators, and chefs — but I still felt like my life and the things I had worked for weren’t enough. Simply reading this information led to pervasive negativity, feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem.
I had been reading this information since I was a teenager. Can you imagine your daughter, niece, or cousin — with all the challenges of the hormones and peer pressure in the teen years — absorbing these stories and thinking life won’t be wonderful unless they have Kylie Jenner’s lips?
Even as an adult woman, I thought I could raise my consciousness so I’d be merely a spectator. What’s wrong with being a voyeur?
But then there they are: those magazines strewn about the salon as I get my pedicure, and I reach for the gossip rags to peek inside the world of celebrity.
Recently, though, I came away with a different feeling than low self-worth or unrealistic competition: sadness. Yes, there is definitely commentary about men, but the way women are presented is particularly disturbing. The ridicule over outfits, cellulite and lack of “bikini bodies,” and when, oh when, will Jennifer Aniston get pregnant and have a baby already?
The lovely and talented Ms. Aniston wrote a wonderful piece for the Huffington Post addressing this very issue, and all I could think after reading it was, amen, sister! I have a baby, I love my baby, but I don’t care if you have a baby, too. Your life and your choices are not mine or anyone else’s game for speculation. You can have a baby, or not, and you’re still an amazing woman in this world (whether you’re Ms. Aniston or Jane Doe down the block).
“Sometimes cultural standards just need a different perspective so we can see them for what they really are — a collective acceptance . . . a subconscious agreement. We are in charge of our agreement. Little girls everywhere are absorbing our agreement, passive or otherwise. And it begins early. The message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into. This conditioning is something girls then carry into womanhood.”
She goes on to make this key point:
“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone.”
If you haven’t read the story in its entirety, please do so (and then read it again to really let it sink in).
A few days later, I read this excellent commentary in the Huffington Post by the impressive Kate Eckman (seriously, this woman is a former journalist with NBC News and is now a coach, motivational speaker, and model, and has her own skincare line). Kate shared how she was shamed online after she posted a video of her modeling swimsuits on her Facebook Live feed. As a size-12 model, Kate received comments like “no fat chicks” and suggested she get a gym membership (which she has, and regularly trains). Most of the comments were from men, curiously enough. And all felt the need to comment on her body shape and put her into a category: more curves = poor health. It’s so disappointing that people still think this way, and worse, that we live in a culture now that we feel we can share our opinions so openly online and in person.
I would say that other people’s opinions don’t matter, but we all know that those words hurt. When you post rude comments online, you are being unkind to another human, which is a tragedy in its own right, but you are also spreading hate and judgment so others can read and hear it, normalizing and perpetuating this type of behavior — and in turn, creating a negative mindset for yourself that leads you further from happiness.
When you make judgments and comments online that breed more antagonism in this world of ours, we all suffer the consequences.
It makes me think back to my younger self, reading those gossip magazines, or to my daughter: How do I want her to view women and the roles we play? What language will I use to empower her to love her body and choices, and pass on positivity so we all move toward a better future?
I know it starts with what I read and share, and it continues when we’re all working to improve our discourse.