I’m a pretty positive person. I like to think about and focus on the areas of life that, as a culture, we have made progress in. However, this doesn’t mean that I can ignore the places where we’ve gotten totally out of whack. And while there are a few, the expectations put on women is an area particularly close to my heart. I mean, I am a woman.
I don’t know how it happened, ladies, but one of those expectations has come to be that, in reference to beauty, not only are we expected to look like this:
but we must achieve Barbie dream girl status while putting forth ZERO effort. It’s kind of amazing isn’t it? We feel the need to paint ourselves as being naturally beautiful while looking so…unnatural.
The first time I experienced this phenomena was as a young middle schooler. I remember having conversations that involved admitting that a few older, popular girls were in fact “pretty”, but then my friends and I would turn around and immediately say that they were “totally high maintenance”. This was to imply that while their beauty was definitely present, there was something about it that wasn’t real. It was an unfair illusion. I was critical of these girls in the same way many people are critical of ad campaigns for brands like Victoria’s Secret where the models are retouched. The criticism is that no “real woman” could ever achieve this ideal look without help so therefore, it is unfair. While the latter is fact (no woman looks like an retouched model, even the model), this line of thinking is completely unfair when gone to extreme and pushed on a 14-year old girl for using makeup. Yes, retouching and putting out unrealistic images isn’t fair to women as a whole, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for women to involve a little maintenance in their overall look. Because here’s the thing, people: When it comes to modern standards of beauty, there is such a thing as low maintenance. There is NO such thing as NO maintenance.
I hope this doesn’t surprise you, gentlemen, but no one wakes up every day with naturally glowing perfection. Even the most lovely, low maintenance ladies will often still have habits that support their looks. For example, a girl with great legs might have them due to her fierce running habit. The legs are a bi-product of something she loves doing. Another girl might be great at washing her face every night before bed, which leads to sparkling skin. A svelte beauty might be a vegan or eat super clean which has been suggested to have tremendous skin and body benefits. All of these habits are wonderful and looking good will be a result whether that was the reason they are doing them or not.
But beyond that level of maintenance, I would venture to say most women put more effort into their looks than just eating well or being active. Some primp, prime, blow their hair out, shop for clothes and beauty products that compliment their body and skin tone and spend hours a week trying to look lovely. But can they admit to this? No! Again, somewhere along the way, it became taboo to discuss how even our good habits of eating well, exercising and taking care of our appearance contribute to our beauty. Should you want a little proof, just pick up a magazine or read any web article where celebrities are interviewed about their beauty routines. Most likely you’ll find them chatting about how they “just like to drink water” or how their “mother always had a great body”. After a quick study, you will see that according to Hollywood, the road to perfection actually isn’t that complicated. You are simply born perfect and living your life is what helps maintain that perfection. Gag me.
Speaking of Hollywood, say what you want you want about the Kardashian clan, but one of the reasons I like those girls is because they are fairly honest about what it takes for them to look good. They don’t hide their workouts, diets, facials, plastic surgery visits, etc… They have even put out into the universe how much it costs to purchase all the products involved in their daily routines. So you know, Kim’s beauty products total into the thousands of dollars. And whether that annoys you, makes you angry or even relieved, the point is that they are real about it. My granny used to tell me when I was a little girl that, “beauty is pain”. But not only is that, it is work.
It’s hard for me to imagine guys having this same issue. Now, obviously I’m not a guy, but I try to picture them having a conversation about their looks and I imagine it going something like this: “Bro, you’re arms are lookin’ huge today!” -“Thanks, Bro! Been doin’ P90X twice a day and eating super clean, pumping myself with whey protein and yeah! This is what you get.”
Now picture the conversation between two girls: One girl is all, “Hey girl! You are looking amazing lately!” While the other girl just smiles and says, “Thanks!” and then nothing. I’m guilty of this as well! I was a culprit of maintenance-shaming as a middle-schooler and, in my own way, I still am! Somebody tells me my hair looks good and what do I say? “Oh, thanks! I showered today…(smile)” No mention of the products I used or the 30 minutes it took to dry/brush/curl/ect…
So maybe we need to start being a little more honest with each other. Now please understand me, I’m not suggesting everyone try to achieve the retouched Victoria’s Secret model/Barbie dream girl look and then fess up to it. But enhancing the natural beauty that all women have is a way of being proud of who we are and will result in higher self esteem. I wonder what it would do for our confidence levels if it was OK to admit that we put effort into our looks. Because it’s not a secret, everybody works at it. At least a little bit. As women, we should be supporting one another, not using this as another way to tear ourselves and others down. And while it’s hard to change bad habits, I’m gonna give it a try. Because let’s face it, after about an hour of showering, blowdrying, hair-straightening, make-up doing, and wardrobing, I may look pretty good, but I sure as heck could NEVER claim #IWokeUpLikeThis.
Click here for the article that was the inspiration behind this post. It’s a great read!