Ladies. Allow me to clarify a few issues. You have mistaken capitalism for beauty. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s just that companies cannot sell you what you already are. Their customers are either people who don’t like how they look, or people who are afraid of losing how they look. That’s what motivates fashion. They need to make you feel ugly or worried each season so they can sell you a whole bunch of pants, tops, skirts and dresses to replace the pants, tops, skirts and dresses you already worked hard to pay for. Otherwise you’d be out having fun.
It’s no coincidence that advertising by clothing and cosmetics companies etc. presents models so heavily photo-shopped, with pore-less skin and lengthened legs, that it is entirely impossible for a woman to actually look like them. And while men are also influenced by those images (as well as ones targeted at them), the simple fact is that those aren’t intended as images of what men find attractive. They are very intentionally designed to be images of everything you’re not.
Yes most straight men take a good look at a woman who fits what’s advertised to them as pretty or sexy, but that still has little bearing on who a man truly values or wants to be with. I remember hearing a radio interview about a study that was done where men were asked to identify “hot” women from a series of thousands of photos. When they were asked to look again through the photos to identify who they would like to try dating, almost none of the “hot” girls were included.
During interviews it came out that the men used “hot” as a holding space for the girls like the ones who are identified as sexy in media. But that did not mean they wanted to date them. They may genuinely like that look, or they may have wanted to sleep with them if they’re that type, but overall the “hot” girls were not the ones they wanted to take home to introduce to Mom. They weren’t the girls the boys wanted to keep.
I love sexiness, but it’s become entirely over-valued. While sex is important in most relationships, even if you have it a lot it still only represents less than 1% of your time together, so it can’t be the basis of the relationship. Yes a younger man will put up with emotional agony for sex with a “hot” girl. But by the time he’s in his late twenties he knows that the more a girl works to be beautiful the less she will feel beautiful. And then feeling that way she’ll look to the guy to bolster her self-esteem and that eventually gets tired. In the end the guy wants the confident girl who’s at ease with herself and therefore easy to be around.
Advertising makes its money by hiding the truth from you. You don’t need men to tell you you’re beautiful. You just need to know there are tons of men who love chubby women more than skinny ones. Or funny girls more than pretty ones. Or trustworthy girls more than jealous ones. Or smart girls more than shallow ones. Or socially conscious girls more than selfish ones. Or friendly girls more than fashionable ones. Your “life” is made up of what is in your consciousness, so you can’t really live with skinny or fashionable. But your psychology can certainly live with funny, trustworthy, smart, social conscious or friendly.
Once people live long enough to realise that beauty really is just a social construct, then they can surrender their belief in it. When they do they also learn why a stretch-marked, confident forty year old woman is much sexier than a “hot” twenty year old with low self-esteem. By forty a wise woman knows life is short and she wants to have fun, so she asks for what she wants and she doesn’t care too much about the details of the guy’s opinions. She’s focused on what she would like from the experience rather than on how the guy will judge her.
Don’t let your culture convince you to stop being you. Girls in Polynesia and parts of Africa had lovely Rubenesque figures. That was their version of sexy. That’s what they found natural and their men were attracted to. But then TV showed up and started pitching products. And of course they are always trying to do the impossible—that’s what keeps you on the treadmill buying them. It’s like a carrot on a stick. It’ll always be dangling in front of you. You’ll never get there. So now girls all over the world want to be just like Western girls. They want to be skinny, have whiter skin, whiter teeth, and no hair on their bodies. All because they got taught to be that way.
But do you want to know what a confident, clear-headed, truly desirable man finds attractive? I don’t know. Because it’s different for every man. Which is why a woman should be herself—an individual. Because otherwise the confident man won’t even be able to find her because she’ll be dressed like a mannequin.
Stop thinking about what’s acceptable. Start having a strong woman’s confidence. People thought Madame Curie should be a housewife instead of a female scientist, so she was a scientist anyway. People thought Betty White should be dignified in her old age, but she was ribald and funny anyway. And people thought you should be fashionable, but your fashion should be what you like and feel comfortable in.
Know that modern society is cruel, judgmental, greedy and selfish. It is a product of its primary forces, one of which is advertising. You are not ugly and you are not beautiful because there are no such things. There are only perspectives and it is only because of mass media that some perspectives were made to appear to be more valuable than others. The most important opinion about your life should come from you. The rest is just people talking.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.