Growing up. It's certainly not easy and in a society obsessed with beauty and an almost impossible standard of physical perfection, it can be deadly.
More and more young woman find their self worth in the world's feedback. Do you think I'm pretty? Do these jeans make me look fat?
I myself have been on a diet since I was 16 years old.
I have never had a day where I woke up, looked in the mirror and felt content with who was looking back at me.
It's been a constant struggle - this relationship between beauty and I. At almost 40, I think I am starting to care a little less... willing to like myself, not despite, but because of, all that I am. My body has given me the ability to love and connect and participate in the world - how could I love it less?
But, as mother to a young daughter, I worry. Am I instilling confidence in her? Am I teaching her that looks are secondary to character? Am I a healthy role model for her? What do I say if she comes to me asking for a boob job and blonde extensions?
We live in a society which thrives on the sexualization of young girls. Thongs are made in junior sizes and the jeans keep getting lower and lower. We revel in their teen pregnancies, obsess over their highly provocative lifestyles and open our email to photos of them flashing their girlie bits. Our idea of "normal" is barely recognizable to the generation before us.
Beauty is seen as the key to happiness. It unlocks all potential. If you're not pretty, as Heidi Klum might say, "you're out".
Self worth tied up with outer beauty.
But what is beauty? Sure, we can probably all agree that Beyonce is a beautiful woman. But what about America Ferrera? What about Tina Fey? What about Kat Von D? All beautiful as well. Does this me that we are opening up our parameters of beauty?
Sometimes, when I drive through town, I'll see all the high schoolers leaving for the day and these young girls, with their smooth skin and shiny hair and straight teeth are so gorgeous they take my breath away. I want to call out to them, "You are lovely. Don't listen to that jerk of a guy on the bus, or take the Cosmo quiz... you are so very lovely, right now."
But, they would probably call the cops on their way to the gym.
So, in this environment, how do we teach our daughter what we know to be true... that there are a million ways to be beautiful.
Enter Woody Winfree.
Her book, We Are More Than Beautiful is a collection of essays, all written by young women of every race and religion and background... together they celebrate their individuality. They get that true beauty comes from loving yourself... they are remarkable.
I can't tell you how much I loved this book and I want you to love it too so at the end of the interview you can enter and I will send you my very own copy (that's a lie, I will buy you one and send it because I won't part with mine).
Take the time to read through this interview... I guarantee you'll come away with a little better prepared to face the hair extension questions.
We Are More Than Beautiful
46 Real Teens Speak Out about Beauty, Happiness, Love and Life
by Woody Winfree
It is about changing the definition of beauty in our culture – one girl at a time, one woman at a time. Quite dramatically, the mass media has chipped away at our sense of beauty and well-being by presenting a singular, narrow and distorted image of female beauty: super-thin bodies, topped by large, perky breasts, with flawless youthful faces surrounded by shiny bouncy hair –and of course, sparkly white, perfectly straight teeth! This suggestion of beauty is not only wrong, it is a LIE. In truth, only three percent of the U.S. female population has the genetic makeup to look like this ideal. That means 97% of us are spending billions of dollars, untold hours of our lives and huge amounts of happiness in an attempt to pursue this distorted ideal.
With the creation of my first book for women, I Am Beautiful – A Celebration of Women, the hope was to give our daughters – mine and yours and every other American girl --- a tangible work that they could hold onto. To expose them to images of women that are as real, interesting, diverse and beautiful as real women are. The success of this first book (that is now available in a gift edition), naturally led to creating a book just for girls: We Are More Than
The girls in the book are ages 12 to 19, from all walks of American life, facing and exploring all types of issues with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Each girl responded to my query – “Tell me why you are beautiful.” At once, every story is unique to the individual girl’s experience, but universal to the experience of American girls everywhere. Each girl is presented with her picture in an artistically graphic and colorful layout over two pages. This presentation is, not only contemporary and exciting to girls raised in the most visually stimulating culture ever but, affords the reader to enter fully into each girls’ “world” and experience her journey of claiming her beauty.
Absolutely! My hope is that mothers and daughters will read it together and use its stories as a springboard for ongoing conversations. Conversations about:
1. The true definition of beauty
2. How the culture distorts that definition – and why
3. Why a narrow, distorted definition is harmful
4. Who are the women and girls in our lives that we find most beautiful – and do they embody the cultural ideal of beauty – or a deeper, more meaningful definition?
5. How we can enjoy the fun and frivolity, even the consumerism, of American life without buying into notion that we must alter our natural features in order to feel beautiful, make friends, get good grades, get ahead and on and on.
When we give “voice” to anything, ascribe literal words to a thought or idea, a major shift begins to take place. It might be ever so subtle in the beginning, but in time the act evolves into a concrete declaration of fact. I also believe that we deserve to know and feel our beauty. I believe it is our right, our spiritual right. Can we reach our full potential in this one precious life we have been honored with if we are chasing an artificial ideal of our self-worth? This is the ultimate question that we must ask ourselves – and guide our young daughters looking up to us to do the same.
I speak frequently to various audiences of women and girls on this subject. From colleges and universities around the country to high schools, at companies and more. These seminars and workshops are designed to dig deeper into the issues we have explored in this interview. These events are listed on my website: www.iambeautiful.com
Special for It's All Fun & Games readers... if you would like your own copy of Woody's book, let me know in the comment section by Thursday, February 14th and EvaJun and I will post the winner on Friday.