I went out with a group of girlfriends on Friday night to celebrate a friend who’s getting married this weekend. As I looked around – watching the actions of the younger women at the bar – I started thinking about all the time I’d spent trying to look and act in a way that wasn’t authentic. How much time had I spent being someone I wasn’t? How much of my self-worth was tied to the reaction of those around me at a club, bar or party? Or worse – on a number the scale gave me?
Why is SO much time (especially when we’re young) dedicated to gaining external validation of whether we’re enough?
The answer came to me later in the night. With my job, I tend to look at life through a lens of market research. I’m constantly trying to make sense of behaviors and the influencers that surround us. That night, my focus was on the many jumbo screens surrounding us at the bar. Let me tell you a little about the music videos that were being played.
- Playlist was from different decades (i.e. 90s, 00’s, current)
- Clothing became more revealing as the songs became more current
- 100% of the videos sexualized women in some way
- 99% of the women were skinny and looked “perfect”
To be clear – I’m not a prude or an overly modest person. I’ve done my fair share of dancing on bars, dressing provocatively, etc. Also, I’ve had 2 kids and if you’ve experienced childbirth – you know that modesty goes out the window real fast. So, my reaction wasn’t necessarily about the obvious increase of nudity in music videos from the 90’s through today. Although – yes, that was eye opening- these videos stirred up more emotion around the collective message they conveyed.
Every day, women wake up and face a world that constantly tells them “you’re less than.” The voice disguises itself in so many ways that we don’t even realize it’s there. It’s as subtle as fun music videos being played on a screen or as blatant as being told by a magazine cover that you’re “fat.” The messages begin to creep in at a young age and literally follows us for the rest of our life.
We are greatly underestimating the damage that is being done and how much the messages control the lives of women. A couple weeks ago – I ran an exercise at our monthly Women of Worth meeting. I asked each woman to speak about an outside influencer (FB post, magazines, etc.) from that day which made her feel bad about her body. Each had a story – from just one moment, of one day. Those single moments took up anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour of each women’s thoughts. Now, think of that moment happening multiple times a day – 365 days a year. It is astonishing how much time we, as women, have dedicated to feeling “less than” and compromised ourselves to push that pain away.
Now – imagine this – you’re a young girl – preparing for a night out with your friends. You’ve been exposed to positive body image messages for your entire life. The messages have told you that you are beautiful, smart and confident – no matter what you look like. The media portrays real people and promotes healthy living products instead of weight loss gimmicks. What would choose you to pick a certain outfit for that night? Would your goal still be to gain external validation from those you saw? I’d wager a bet that you’d approach that night with confidence and you’d exude beauty. You would shine for YOU and not for anyone else. Also, you’d go on to approach all your life experiences differently.
For those of us who have already endured years of the messages – it’s our job to fight back – for ourselves and the future generations. Ladies, we need to rebuild our mindsets from a place of truth and beauty so that future generations understand that their self-worth isn’t dependent upon looking a certain way. We have earned the right to choose our own definition of beauty and stand confidently in that definition – whether the media or society agrees with it or not.
Are you with me, ladies? What can you do to spread a new message?