Our vision of beauty! Why has it turned so ugly?

Like most people, I like to look my best. For me looking my best coincides, or in fact begins with, feeling my best. Pre recovery I’d try to make myself feel good by obsessing over my appearance. Endless buying of clothes, sweating at the gym and purchasing of miracle creams ensued to summon up even a tiny amount of self-worth. No matter how hard I worked on myself in a physical sense, it left me feeling even more destitute and empty. But now being all wise and recovered and spiritual, I see clearly that I had it all backwards.

beauty isn't a size

picture courtesy of fitflea.com

I’ve written before about my cleansing of all things body shaming from my surroundings. No fashion magazines! No advertising for extreme abs or rock hard butts, nor images of wrinkle, eye bag and cellulite free gods and goddesses allowed within 500 meters of our home. Despite being aware of the powers of photoshop, somewhere in my disordered brain I believed it was possible, and completely necessary to achieve the same standard as these images.

I still become completely transfixed by a wall full of brightly colored lipsticks and costume jewelry when my daughter and I are having a girly Saturday afternoon window shop. We are dazzled by sparkle and ridiculously high-heeled walking apparatus. Despite our ages being decades apart we both share that exuberance for dressing up. Our very favorite shop sells nothing but amazing vintage clothing. We get dizzy surrounded by all the fluff and glitter of the 1950’s ball gowns, and while we are both super animal lovers and would never buy fur nor wear it, we can’t help running our hands along the mink coats wondering what fabulous lady once wore such a garment. Every culture since the beginning of time has enjoyed its own version and interpretation of beauty enhancement, passing traditional methods of self-care down from generation to generation.

Unfortunately beauty has become more of a taunting and harmful entity than a nurturing and esteem building one. Despite my fevered attempts at promoting positive body image, self-acceptance and nurturing in my home, we still cannot escape the media concept of beauty. I love that quote I see occasionally on my facebook feed by Dr. Gail Dines. It says “If tomorrow women woke up and decided that they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” Indeed, but how many industries would be boosted?

Perhaps those of us who wouldn’t dream of going to a gym for fear of ridicule may start making it part of our lives. Not because we want to look like a swim suit model, but because we love ourselves enough to want to care for ourselves. Perhaps the amount of junk we shove in our bodies would decrease therefore alleviating the pressure and expense on our medical facilities. Maybe if we saw food as our medicine instead of the enemy we’d all grow our own. Perhaps less people would be turning to self-harming behaviors such as addiction. Maybe our mental health would cease to be assaulted by constant negative berating.

Men also fall victim to body shaming, and the devastating feelings of inadequacy because of it. They are also made to feel ashamed if they are not attracted to the images of the “perfect” female body. That right there is not something we hear about everyday. However, I’ve known two men personally that hid the fact that they find a woman with more than a few extra pounds on their bones super attractive. And while it most definitely says a lot about those mens’ characters, it also shows just how powerful and influential mainstream media portrayal of any subject is. Basically it devastates any reality pertaining to who we really are on the inside.

Objectification of human beings is something that really irritates me to my core. I abhor the extreme sexual and perfect perception of the male physique just as much as I do regarding women. I also hate how self image dictates how we feel about ourselves as sexual beings and whether we feel  worthy of love and a sex life or not. The premise that sex and love is only for the beautiful has led us to the point that real love is a very rare thing. In its place sexual lust has become priority. Once the object of our affection is no longer attractive to the eye people are tossed aside like another worthless commodity.

So having strong views on the issue of body image and its’ role in our society, I was interested to hear that a brand new magazine has been launched in the UK using only plus sized models. It appears that it is one of very few publications of it’s kind in the entire world. Having talked to other women from around the world, nobody knew for certain, if a similar publication was in print. My initial thought was “Oh thank god! Finally a fashion magazine I can read without being triggered to return to sticking my fingers down my throat and exercise to the point of exhaustion!” Why has it taken so long for a magazine like this to exist? A I perused the pages adorned with voluptuous curves and trying to figure out what exactly was plus sized about some of the girls, the stark realization hit me. Publications like this are still not fixing the issue of body discrimination and shaming.

Why the hell do we need a size specific magazine at all? While I believe it’s about time that curvier women were represented in mainstream fashion; is this going to the other extreme and shaming slim women? Why is it so unimaginable for all human beings to stand side by side and be beautiful in our diversity? While my head spun with a million questions, I vowed to never pick up another fashion magazine again. Regardless of who these magazines cater for, ultimately they are designed to make us feel bad about ourselves and max out our credit cards on any lotion or potion that may improve our appearance. Being able to see the world as it really is because I’m sober can be quite troublesome sometimes. While the good in the world is most definitely magnified, so is the crap that we are force fed.

I’m fully aware that my zero tolerance for media and corporate contrived bullshit will eventually either make me totally insane or force me into seclusion. All I can do is strengthen my resolve to stay true to my own compassionate and accepting view of the people in this world and hopefully pass it on to my children.

It is through recovery that I managed to dispel my hatred of my own body. When I was sober I couldn’t look at myself in a mirror. When I was drunk I could – almost –  somewhere in the back of my mind – convince myself that my body was acceptable. Not only does acceptance of self encourage self-love and a desire to care for ourselves, it also takes away the illusion of a perfect body or a perfect life. We wake up to the fact that there is no such thing.

Nicola O'Hanlon

About Nicola O'Hanlon

Meet our Editor-In-Chief, Nicola O'Hanlon. She created this website, along with the help of the InTheRooms team in September 2015. Her work has been published in several recovery magazines, including Recovery Today, In Recovery Magazine, AfterPartyChat.com, Psychology Today and Reach Out Recovery to name but a few. She has also had her work published in two Feminist anthologies and a book of personal recovery stories. Born and raised in Wexford, Ireland she still lives there with her two children, Christopher and Jessica. Her background is in healing through Massage Therapy, Reflexology and Sechiem Energy Healer. She has combined her professional and life experience and now coaches women on how to empower themselves. She runs the Womens Wisdom Healing Circle meeting, on InTheRooms.com every Sunday (Noon est 5pm UK & Ireland), which is a non program specific gathering of women seeking support, encouragement and healing. Already an expert on how not to live life she is a constant seeker of new and better ways of being. Nature is her Higher Power and she believes in magic, crystals and blames the phases of the moon for her multiple personalities.
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One Comment

  1. Beauty…ahhh..vanity…perfection… Man did all that shit dance in my mind too…It was never good enough, no matter how hard I worked at it.. There was always a “perfect” woman on a magazine cover or TV show, that had as many kids as me…but was firmer, younger, stronger..blah,blah,blah..
    I cringe at what the world makes girls think beauty is. Realty shows of girls complaining about their insecurities of their flaws on their already plastic perfect shape.
    There is nothing wrong with dressing up, doing make up etc., but when we do it to add to what we see as beautiful already, in my opinion, it is a healthy fun..
    I learned through sobriety, to start to self love myself, hard one…But I am learning to accept myself the way I am. I eat right and work out to stay healthy and help my body as it gets older, not to be some “society” view of perfect…screw that..because I do not think society will ever accomplish that goal, society perfect. it does not exist.

    Love your articles!!!

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