Having just handed in my dissertation on the presence of patriarchal stereotypes and female objectification in Disney films, I began to think about how my exposure to the portrayal of perfection has impacted the way I see myself.
Self-criticism is something I think everyone faces. Black, white, male or female, I believe everyone looks at themselves and sees something that could be better. Whether that’s wanting a smaller waist, broader shoulders, lighter skin or something the mirror can’t see, it’s fair to say self-criticism and reflection is natural. Wanting to be the best version of you is great. But at what point does this go too far, and how much of it is a result of external pressures?
In my opinion… a hell of a lot. When I think about the presence of female objectification, which importantly includes self-objectifying, and the extent to which women in particular go to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, it is mind blowing. When women are putting themselves in harm’s way by having surgery conducted by unqualified practitioners, causing damage to their beautiful skin with the use of bleaching agents and becoming so fixated with their goal weight that they aren’t eating enough. It seems to me we may just have lost our way.
An important part of the argument in my dissertation was about how problematic the notion of the essentialism of the female experience is. This is the idea that there are intrinsic or fixed qualities that are crucial to being a women or man. As I go about my daily life, I can’t help but feel continuously influenced by gendered suggestions of how a woman ought to be. The increasing expectation of women in the 21st century to be driven and successful, amazing mothers and wives, as well as keeping up with the ever-changing beauty standards plastered across the media and engraved in the minds of those around us…it is a lot.
But here’s the thing. There is no instruction manual or perfect template for you to squeeze yourself into. It’s a false narrative created to breed discontent and unhappiness. And so, as I sit here writing this post, in the midst of one of the world’s worst pandemics, a recent graduate who is unsure of what is to come next, I just want to remind you that you are the writer of your own narrative. You were created to live the best version of the life YOU want to live. You are capable of achieving whatever you want to achieve. To help, to inspire, to nurture, to love, and to live in the way YOU see fit.
So, I guess I’m not really writing to inform or to persuade but just to pose the question: when you look in the mirror do you love and appreciate the imperfect reflection you see?
I hope so! If you’re not quite there yet, take a deep breath. Perfection is overrated.
Good luck on your journey!
From one imperfect being to another x