Blog, Body Image, Feminism

Thanks For Noticing

Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of receiving compliments with grace, and *gasp* even agreeing with them.  Imagine that!  For instance, if someone comments that I am beautiful, I will say “Thank you,” while nodding my head in agreement.  It’s more of a, “thank you for noticing,” than a “thank you so much for validating me” nod.  I hate that women are taught to receive compliments in an apologetic way, sheepishly murmuring rebuttals like we ain’t worth shit.  It was only recently that I learned what it means to love myself in a way that I acknowledge all of my wonderful qualities FIRST, so that when another person remarks on them, I’m not hitting them with shock, surprise and disbelief.

Often, we as women respond to compliments with excessive gratitude as if the person doling out kind words is doing us a favor.  It makes sense why this is so common, though.  We are inherently insecure because of the way we are brought up.  We are held to impossible and contradictory standards which NO human being can live up to.  The result is constantly feeling as though nothing we do is good enough–as though WE are not good enough.  I am pretty sure that if we tried to program a robot to behave according to the standards we are expected to uphold, it would feed us a “computational error” message and burst into flames.  As a result of us being unable to live up to the impossible standards set for us, compliments are genuinely interpreted as misplaced.  “Who me?  You think I’m beautiful??  Really??  Oh well, you should see me in the morning without make up, I’m a hot mess.”  Ugh!

Here are some examples of the ridiculous standards women are held to:

The Mom Paradox

Host your body to another living being for 9 months.  Stretch your stomach as well as your vaginal walls beyond what you thought humanly possible.  Then go back to having a flat, stretch-mark-free stomach and vaginal walls tight enough to hold a pen and write with it.  And you must breastfeed because that’s what breasts are made for, but don’t breastfeed in public because that’s inappropriate.  Oh, and make sure you go back to work right away and perform at the same level you did prior to having a child—keep up the hard work if you want to prove you should be earning what men in your position and with your experience, skills, and education are earning; buuuut, don’t work too hard, because then you’re a terrible mom.  And make sure you feel awful and hang your head in shame whenever you are called away from work to take care of your sick child.  Hey, no one told you to have kids, did they?  Oh, wait, yes they did.  Society says the true hallmark of womanhood is having a child and keeping a man.  What kind of woman doesn’t have, or worse yet, want kids??  SMH

The Slut Paradox

Be chaste—keep your legs closed.  Don’t be a slut.  But don’t be frigid either.  Be horny and always ready for sex, but don’t have too much sex lest you be labeled a slut.  You cannot have sex with just anyone simply because you want to, but don’t hold out on the pussy either, lest you be labeled a frigid bitch.  Basically, you must want and be ready for sex at all times, but must refrain from having sex as often as possible.  Don’t get emotionally attached and clingy after sex, lest you come across as needy and scare men away.  But don’t be too unattached either, or admit that you, like him, are seeing other people–only sluts can have sex with multiple partners and not get emotionally attached to any of them.  And for heaven’s sake, have sex with the guy who is pretending to be your friend so that he can fuck you; stop stringing him along already!  The fact that he is constantly and consciously doing you favors in hopes that you will sleep with him is not his fault, it’s YOURS.  Let him have his way with you, because he’s a nice guy.  If you friend-zone the fake-nice guy who is trying to fuck you, you will receive bad relationship karma and deserve to be cheated on by all of your future boyfriends.  Also, you must never cheat on your man, lest you be labeled a slut; buuuut if your man cheats on you, he’s not a slut, it’s your fault.  You were or weren’t doing something that forced him to cheat.  Shame on you!

The Single Paradox

Don’t stay single for too long.  Only useless, unattractive and/or crazy women who cannot keep a man are not married by a certain age.  Never mind the fact that while women have a biological timeline for marrying and having children, men are not raised to see marriage as a part of their value system until they are much older, are encouraged to have as many sexual partners as possible, and are celebrated as bachelors.  You must overlook this tremendous setback in search of a husband, lest you be deemed unfit for a relationship.

The Perfect Body Paradox

Don’t be lazy—stay in shape.  But don’t get too muscular and don’t be too strong.  Stick to “girly” exercises like running and crunches, which do nothing to reshape your body.  And if all else fails and you are unable to achieve physical perfection, invest thousands of dollars in plastic surgery so that men may look upon you and enjoy what they see.  You owe that much to society.  What are you fit for if men can’t look at you and like what they see?!  Tsk tsk!

I can go on, but I won’t.  I’ve digressed quite a bit.

*shifts gears; reverses*

My point is, given society’s relentless criticism of the way women look and behave, it’s nearly impossible for a woman to feel good about herself, or feel confident and comfortable in her own skin.  This renders us sensitive to people’s criticisms, and even our own criticisms are unbearably harsh and cruel.  This hyper-sensitivity creates a vulnerability within us.  This “soft spot” would have us mistake flattery as genuine interest.  It would have us place on a pedestal those who aren’t fit to grovel at our feet, all because they said they think we’re beautiful.

Ladies, don’t leave the power to uplift and validate yourself in the hands of others.  Learn to validate yourself.  Highlight and praise your wonderful qualities so that when someone comes along and notices, you can nod your head in agreement and thank them for noticing.  And the person who respects and values you will think nothing of it–he or she will likely be relieved you aren’t depending on them for validation.

If you spend an hour a day applying your makeup and making sure your outfit is immaculate, stop acting surprised when someone says you look good, as if you aren’t working hard as hell to ensure that you do.

Know thyself & love thyself, boo.  You’re worth it.  xoxo