LOVE MONTH: Being Kind To Yourself & Other Women

by - February 11, 2015

I've heard people say far too many times that women don't wear makeup for men, they wear it for other women. When I was thinking about the content of this post, that rang really loudly in my head. I hate it. I hate the idea that we feel such obligation to impress other women that anyone would wear makeup in order to gain acceptance from our peers or women we don't even know, but I know that I've been guilty of feeling that I have to look a certain way or be particularly put together when in social situations where I'm going to be spending time with certain women. I have also been guilty of judging other women for their appearance or what they're wearing. I think we've all been guilty of that and I don't think it's the least bit fair of us to do so.

Constantly women's relationships are framed in a way that pits us against each other and we're encouraged to think of other women as competition rather than allies. I feel, in my life, that I need the support system and inspiration of the women around me in order to be the best of myself. This isn't because they are my competition or because I need to keep up with the lady Joneses, but because positive relationships and interactions with other women help me to feel strong, to have courage, and to be more fearless about truly being myself.

My best friend told me a story about a moment of realization that she had last fall when she saw a woman with thick thighs walking down the street wearing hot pants, appearing to be nothing but confident in her wardrobe choice. My friend's first instinct was to think that this stranger shouldn't be wearing what she was wearing, but realized a moment later that she had no right to decide what someone should or shouldn't wear. That moment of realization made her acutely aware of just how easy it is to impose unfair judgement of what is and isn't okay about another women's body, her appearance, or her choices without a second thought. This woman appeared to be confident, rocking a body that the media might tell you isn't perfect enough without any shame, so why can the instinct so easily be to judge that woman instead of celebrating her confidence? Hell, celebrating her normal human body, for that matter. My friend told me that a significant part of that realization she had was that she knew it related directly back to her own body issues, the standards she'd learned to impose on herself as well as others. I feel that, more often than not, our judgement of others is really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. The worse or more insecure we feel about ourselves, the more likely we are to judge others and project our own shame onto them.

We often hear people talking about "dressing for your body type", as though we have to police our bodies to that degree. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with wanting to know how to best flatter your own body shape, but I still find that phrase problematic. When we hear that, it implies that we need to change the appearance of our bodies to better adhere to the standards of what is considered to be a body that is good, versus our own bodies that are then considered to be bad or wrong. Generally, the idea seems to be that we should strive to look thinner, longer, and more proportionate no matter what, because that's what a body "should" be.

When I say that a woman who is overweight shouldn't be wearing a bikini because it means that people around her can see that she's overweight, I am shaming her body and by extension my own body. Saying that someone shouldn't wear something because it doesn't display their body to best appear like one specific body type that is considered acceptable inevitably implies, if not outright proclaims, that there is something wrong with their body and that they should be ashamed of it. I have thick, short legs and I "shouldn't" wear skinny jeans because they highlight that fact, or make my legs appear to be even thicker or shorter. So what? I love skinny jeans because they're comfortable and highlight my curves in a way that I like, so I wear them. And I feel good in them. And that's awesome! I want to dress for me, I want to wear makeup for me, and I want to live my life for me. And I believe that's what each of us should do, whatever the choices we make. You should never feel like you have to wear something that you're not comfortable in or don't like, there are a million choices out there, but you also shouldn't feel restricted in what you're allowed to wear simply because someone says your body is wrong.

I don't believe what they say about women naturally being catty. I don't believe that women are at odds with each other because of biology. I believe that these things are learned behaviors, that we do as we learn and that throughout our lives we're taught to judge and fear other women, to have adversarial relationships with other women, and to belittle each other to make ourselves feel better. I don't think that these are things that are in us, they are things that we've learned that we can teach ourselves are wrong and then work to change. I think that our natural inclination is towards forming relationships and learning from the people in our lives, which means that once we stop allowing ourselves to act out those learned behaviors it's much easier to live in kindness and harmony with other women and ourselves.

Imagine walking through life knowing that the people around you were silently cheering you on and giving you props for being exactly who you are, looking the way you look, dressing in a way that makes you feel good and comfortable, for moving confidently through your life. Imagine if you could go through your life without the distraction of having to live up to other people's standards of right or wrong in regards to how you look. Imagine how much less pressured we would all feel to live up to some impossible standard that is never spoken but frequently imposed, if we ourselves weren't imposing those standards on others.

Maybe we will never be able to truly walk through this world without being judged based on our appearances, but we can make a personal commitment to walk through the world doing our very best to not judge others on their appearance, and that can change the way that we see both the world we live in and ourselves. Ultimately, to rely on quotes of others, we have to be the change that we want to see in the world because that's the only way anything will change.

I challenge you, next time you see someone who "shouldn't", try to reframe your thoughts and celebrate that woman. The next time you see a magazine with a ranking of celebrity bikini bodies or little red circles around a woman's cellulite, don't pick it up because that helps to fuel that fire of judgement and shame. The next time you're at the beach, don't judge people for what they're wearing or what their bodies look like, but instead just enjoy a sunny day doing whatever it is you're there to do. As women, we have so much to do in our lives, time spent in judgement of others or of ourselves is time that we can spend doing things that will actually make us happy.

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