If I had a dollar for every time someone made a negative comment about the way I look I think I would be rich by now.
I’m sure that’s pretty standard for most women out there, and probably a lot of men as well.
“You’d be so pretty if you just lost a little weight” complete strangers would say with that look of innocence like they haven’t just told you you’re worthless the way you are. If only your body conformed to the average idea of beauty.
And unfortunately, well-trained avoid-er of conflict that I am, I don’t disagree. Sometimes even internally I don’t disagree. There’s a sickening sense of ‘routine’ to these occurrences. A feeling that these sorts of put-downs and judgements are just to be expected.
But what I want to talk about here, is an even more worrying trend that I’ve been noticing in my life, and maybe there are others who will recognize this in their own lives.
I’ll start with a few quotes:
- We just need something to smooth out those lumps
- You should probably start wearing make-up (to job interviews)
- Me “I got my dress adjusted” Response “Did you eat too much cake?”
I could probably go on, but I think these will illustrate my point well enough.
Of those comments, the first and third, were said to me by my mother; the second by my husband.
The first was while looking for a top for me to wear to a job interview (I’ve been to a lot lately, so it is a theme). The second was after I had got some make-up (which I never otherwise wear) for my wedding, and had gone through the first test. And the third was in reference to my wedding dress, after several months of ‘don’t eat too much cake or you won’t fit your dress’ comments. I’m not even a fan of cake…
Now it would be so easy to start defending these comments. That they were meant well, or that it’s about facing the ‘reality’ of the world that we live in. I know particularly for my husband that he was concerning himself with the way that people perceive not wearing make-up rather than trying to say that he thought I needed it. But how often do we do this, how often do we push aside what those who should be on our side have said to us with these sorts of excuses. I know I often tell myself, well I am overweight, so maybe they have a point. Even though it hurts.
Unlike, necessarily, the comments of a random stranger they hurt deeply. And, especially in the case of my mum, they’re persistent. I’ve been hearing comments about my weight and my looks from my mum my entire life. I don’t remember her ever telling me that I am beautiful. I can survive the pain of any stranger while I’m still dealing with the pain of that.
The major problem, is that it’s much harder to talk about these kinds of criticism. I know that I have seen many examples of people going on Facebook or sharing stories among friends of strangers that have said horrible things to them, regarding weight, or looks. And it’s easy to share these and shame the cruelty of the perpetrators. But it’s not that easy when it’s people close to you. I think about telling anyone that my mum said those things to me and I shudder, because it makes her sound horrible. And I don’t want people to think my mum’s horrible. She’s still my mum. Or what if I told someone about what my husband said, and they asked, ‘why are you with such a jerk?’ and I go, he’s not a jerk, he made a mistake, everyone does. But if we can’t talk about these types of occurrences, then we can’t address them. We can’t receive support; and soon the comments become part of our internalized self talk.
I guess, in writing this, and sharing some of my experiences, I hope that if anyone ever sees it maybe it can start a dialogue. A dialogue about the beauty criticism that feeds into our everyday lives and the hidden harm of receiving these regular messages from those who are supposed to be our close friends, family, lovers and supporters. Because before long we hear these criticisms and begin to think… well if my mum/husband/brother/best friend etc. thinks that I’m not good enough the way I am, I’m probably not.
Sending love to all those who have ever felt this way. You are beautiful just as you are.