Jumping Through Hoops

I watched the movie Cuties today and my interpretation was it’s an accurate portrayal of what girls face nowadays, to me it was criticizing the hypersexualization and objectification of girls and women. And it explored how awkward and difficult it can be for a prepubescent girl, during that in-between phase from childhood to adolescence.

Actually, I believe beauty pageants are worse than what was explored in this movie. In Cuties, the girls weren’t fully cognizant of what the ramifications were of the way they were dressing and dancing. They were just conforming to and mimicking what they saw in society. They thought they were doing what was expected of them in order to fit in, be accepted, to be admired and popular. Beauty pageants are far more exploitative to me because it’s in real life, sanctioned by adults and not a movie. It’s damaging the way our society is so hyperfocused on bodies and physical appearance. We are not these bodies, we’re what’s animating these bodies. We are all inherently worthy and equal no matter our physical appearance.

I have a memory that sticks with me. I was watching TV with some people and one person was negatively criticizing all of the women’s physical attributes and others were laughing. A former partner also did this in general and specifically was criticizing a female newscaster’s appearance until one day I got tired of it so I began criticizing the male newscaster’s appearance and they looked at me like I had lost my mind, lol. It’s so strange how people can be offended by someone else doing the same things they do. What is that…hypocrisy, entitlement, misogyny?

Since sixth grade, my physical appearance has been picked over and criticized by adults. My peers never said anything negative to me about my appearance, just typical racist things, but nothing about my body, hair, or face, well once some boy in the neighborhood commented on and laughed at my flat feet, but that was it. The adults were the worst.

During adolescence is when we became more focused on our physical appearance, we read magazines and tried to conform to those standards. We wanted to fit in, feel good about ourselves, and belong. Today with social media the pressure is even more, but there’s also a lot more awareness and information to help people struggling with body image and eating disorders. I don’t know if it’s ever going to change though, the objectification and pressure to fit a mold.

If I could speak to my younger self I’d try to convince her that it’s such a waste of energy to worry about what you look like or to try to conform and fit in. What’s most important is staying true to yourself and spending your energy on things that you value, that captivate and motivate you to explore and enjoy the flow of life. I’d tell her to stay more inwardly focused, pay attention to what feels right and true, to gravitate towards what brings freedom, love, and joy. I’d advocate for her to choose what’s most loving of herself, not what gets the most likes or popularity, that’s fleeting and then the external world has control over your self-worth. I’d somehow prove to her that she’s worthy no matter what she looks like or what her achievements are, she deserves to be loved just the way she is and that the person who needs her love the most is herself.

Alas, that’s not how it works, we all go through the confusing stages of growth and development, it’s pretty messy for most of us. We can tell ourselves the logical truths, that physical appearance is a superficial fleeting part of what life’s about, but still, we have our fears and anxieties. We all want to feel attractive and well-liked, it’s in our nature. We can’t help but compare ourselves because we’re driven to fit in, we’re social creatures. But we can consciously shift our perspectives and make an effort to shed our social conditioning surrounding physical appearance and feeling self-conscious with low self-esteem.

I eventually got better over time, I became less negative in my self-talk on the state of my physical appearance and began to accept myself just the way I was. It took a lot of retraining myself and educating myself. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that what matters most is am I living a peaceful, harmonious, loving joyful life? Am I healthy? Do I have mutually beneficial relationships? Am I engaged and in the flow, fulfilling my creativity? None of this has to do with what I look like, or if I’m conforming to the roles I believe will be met with approval by society. What matters is what I’m feeling, doing, and being, and if it’s aligned with what’s right for me. I get to choose, I have the power and since adulthood, I’ve always had it.

Yeah, I’d love to be thin, buff, and less aged, heh… but the hoops I’d have to jump through to accomplish that just aren’t worth it, so I’m happy to be me, just the way I am. It’s more enjoyable that way, I wish I’d been this way my whole life, but I’m thankful I didn’t reach my grave still feeling bad and obsessing over things that don’t really matter.

Michelle Miyagi
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