I have had really, really shitty self-esteem the past few days. I know it's partially hormonal and partially the post-super-party-weekend bloat, but I've been feeling like an overstuffed sausage casing with rosacea. Seth, of course, reassures me that I'm beautiful (as any loving husband would), but I look in the mirror and see a 5'10" brick shithouse with jiggly underarms, and I can't help but feel lousy.
And then I eat fast food and I hate myself. And I don't understand how all these other women can spend six hours a week at the gym and I can't even turn down a fucking chicken nugget.
These earworms of self-hatred have laid eggs in our female brains, and, save for a bleach scrub or a case of amnesia, they're unlikely to disappear. They hatch when someone calls someone else "the hottest girl they've ever seen." They writhe when someone tells you you look tired. They pinch when you see a less-than-flattering picture of yourself. They torment you.
What does it take to feel contentment with how you look? Why does the admission that someone else is beautiful feel like a dagger in the stomach? The devil's in the details. The devil's in the invariable comparison.
Because beauty, as we have come to know it, as society has dictated to us, is a zero-sum game. It is a land of winners and losers, of haves and have-nots. We assume that if someone else is victorious, we have lost. When we hear that another woman is beautiful, we assume it means we are ugly. We attempt to qualify what makes them beautiful, and we hone in on the differences between them and ourselves as a measure of all the areas we fail in. I can't count the number of times I've seen a petite wisp of a woman and instantly hated my broad stature. I can't express how many times I've thought about how much I hate my ruddy, freckled skin, or my thick thighs or my pudgy stomach or my fine, unruly hair. I want to cry just thinking about how much I've hated myself as a woman. I have let my insecurities enslave me. How much time have we wasted thinking, "If only I had a smaller waist," or a thinner nose, or a firmer ass? How much of our lives are we squandering in some pursuit of a beauty ideal that is neither definitively beautiful, nor ideal?
We allow the brightest, most honest voices – the voices of those who love us, who unequivocally think we are beautiful – to be drowned out by the voices of strangers. This is more than harmful. This borders on malicious. Not only that, but it’s backwards.
Of course, I am intimidated by those "pretty girls," their beachy waves and skinny ankles. I doubt anyone asked them at their 8th grade semi-formal when they were expecting. I bet they never overheard two classmates talk about how they’d only be attractive if someone put a bag over their head. They didn't suffer through six years of orthodontic work and weekly prank calls telling them they needed Clearasil.
Or maybe they did. Maybe “pretty girls” don't exist. Maybe they're a tangible projection of our own insecurities. They're who we think we’d be, if we lost twenty pounds or had rhinoplasty. They're what we think we lack. They represent all the ways we tell ourselves we’re not good enough. We envy others and fail to see that others envy us. It’s a vicious cycle of self-doubt in perpetuity. And we’re better than that, as women, as people. We're fucking smarter than that.
It's time to realize that I shouldn't care if a man doesn't find me attractive or I can't get into a club for free. It hasn't got shit to do with how I should love myself. I can write and sing and make a fucking fantastic red velvet brownie and my eyes are deep blue and my tits are, well, the tits. I'm sick of crying when I go bathing suit shopping and I'm sick of wondering what other women have that I don't. I'm tired of the specter of comparison hanging its arms around my neck. I'm shaking it off.
I'm saying fuck off to the weight loss industry, fashion labels, any man who rates women on a scale of 1 to 10, tabloids that rate ‘beach bodies,’ and anyone who ever made me feel ugly or unworthy.
All of them can kiss the fattest part of my ass.