Women Enough's BARE campaign
by Anastasia Kuba
By Diane Hopkins at Women Enough
If only I looked like her. If only I had bigger boobs, skinnier thighs, and a flatter stomach, I would be…what? Happier, more successful, less insecure?
If only I was prettier, a bit sexier, or looked like a pin-up girl…then I might have a life partner, be promoted at work, and own the life of my dreams.
We could talk about eating disorders and cosmetic surgery or mainstream media and how damaging its images of women are to our self-esteem. We could criticize the “thigh gap” and “flabdomen” debates and blame magazines that slam the bodies of female celebrities. But I would rather do something different. I want to widen the discussion to get at the core of what it’s really all about.
Everywhere, all over the globe, women don't feel "enough."
"If only I looked like her" is the biggest epidemic facing women, and it’s not just in the U.S. It’s everywhere. Women spend thousands of dollars trying to achieve a beauty ideal that keeps changing and is different in every country and culture. While women in the U.S. get breast implants and tummy tucks, in Asia, women opt for eyelid procedures – all in an effort to look beautiful – whatever that means.
We chase a moving target, trying to convince ourselves we will eventually track down that elusive beauty ideal. Unfortunately, in trying to look beautiful, we end up rejecting ourselves. We seek to become something different from what we naturally are.
It makes me sad that as women feel we need to change our looks to "compete" for men, jobs, love, and attention. It makes me really sad that other women aren't satisfied with their looks, and that I have spent most of my life ashamed of mine. I cry sometimes when I think about all the times I've stopped myself from taking that dance class, asking that guy out, or going to the beach because I hated my body.
It seems bizarre to me now how much I used to let other people's opinions of me dictate my freedom and happiness. I insisted upon shaming and blaming my body for everything that was going wrong in my life.
I thought if only I looked different. If only I looked like her - my prettier friend, that girl at the yoga studio, or any other woman that reflected that unattainable ideal of beauty, then my problems would go away. It was an easy lie to purchase but it still was a lie. Why did I buy into it?
As women we get told by the media that our physical appearance - our beauty and sexual desirability - is our primary value in society. So when we don't feel valued or when our life gets challenging, it is far too easy to fall back on the belief that we need to be prettier, skinnier, more physically attractive.
Vulnerability is what fuels self-hate. When we feel low and insecure, it's easy to jump to negative conclusions about our looks because this seems to be our female fall-back position. We are brainwashed to feel this way about ourselves, and then we falsely believe that our beauty is the only source of worth in society.
So what’s the solution? We need to build up women's self-worth. We need to remind women that the beauty they offer to the world goes far beyond their looks. So many women I know settle for less in their lives - with their relationships, careers, and in pursuing their dreams - because they don't believe they deserve any better. They can't see how beautiful, intelligent, witty, and talented they really are.
Change starts with us. We need to stop buying into other people's opinions about us. We need to stop letting the media dictate how we feel about our bodies. Most importantly, we need to show each other, and ourselves, just how special we are - in our natural form.
If you're ready to be part of our positive body image movement, check out our campaign at Women Enough, reminding women that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes. On November 18, we launch our Indigogo Crowdfunding Campaign intended to finance travel to 10 cities around the world, campaigning for positive media change, and supporting women in claiming their self-worth, beyond their beauty. Are you with us? We hope so!
All photos ©Anastasia Kuba for Women Enough's BARE campaign.
Diane Hopkins is a writer and Managing Editor at Women Enough, a not-for-profit organization that works with women that are ready to claim all parts of themselves and live beyond the confines of who they think they ‘should’ be. She also writes about living a life beyond limitations on her blog Coffee Shop Guru.