Why liking yourself is an act of rebellion

I’ve always wanted to be a rebel. You know, one of those leather jacket wearing, heavy eyeliner ‘cool’ girls in films who see what they are ‘supposed’ to do and then do the exact opposite.

Unfortunately for me, I’m more Miss Honey than Catwoman, but one thing I am working hard to rebel against is how I am manipulated by beauty standards and the lure of the ‘ideal’ body image. I’m hoping I can convince you to join me in this rebellion, too.

You see, as a woman we are made to not like ourselves. Your automatic reaction to this statement might be to screw up your nose and say ‘I don’t think so’, but we are.

This conditioning starts young. Dolls have makeup, dyed hair and fashionable outfits to change into, with more and more styles released that the doll must keep up to date with. Walk into 99% of stores that sell children’s clothing and I’m sure you will find some t-shirt with a slogan saying ‘cutie’ or ‘mummy thinks I’m beautiful’ as if beauty is all a woman can aspire to be. As a teacher, one that scares me most is the fact that you could ask children what a diet is and most will be able to tell you.

From the films we watch to the products we see in the store, everything is set up to instil the idea that we must look at ourselves as a ‘what you are not’ rather than a ‘what you already are’. Then, when we fall in line and start to pull ourselves apart, we are sold a product to ‘fix’ it.

You don’t have hair like Margot Robbie? Dye it.

You want a waist like J-Lo? Join a gym or participate in a detox or drink a diet (aka laxative) tea.

Your lips are too thin? There’s filler for that.

The clothes you’re wearing? They’re out of season now, sorry. Buy more and then you’ll be in style (for the next few weeks, anyway).

The boundaries and rules of what is beautiful and desirable constantly change. Curves were once out but are now in. Thin eyebrows were fashionable when I was a teenager, whereas now it’s the bigger the better. Fake lips have replaced fake tan. Stylish streetwear is ahead of bodycon. Big bums beat big boobs. Trends and beauty ideals change so frequently it’s almost enough to give you whiplash.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why what is considered beautiful changes?

Because, by making idealised beauty impossible to ever fully attain, we spend more and more and more trying to get there, and someone (spoiler alert – not us) gets very rich in the process.

Every magazine printed is basically a glossary of adverts. Buy this shampoo/mascara/new book/wonder food and you will become prettier/cooler/skinnier/stronger/cleverer. The goal posts change every time a new product comes out. The more we can be convinced to hate ourselves, the more we will buy to change ourselves.

With that being the case, doesn’t it make sense that the ultimate act of rebellion is to… well, just not hate yourself?

Now I’m not saying never buy new clothes or makeup or shoes. Hell, I love shopping probably more than most. But what I am saying is that surely we will be a lot happier if the choices we make and the things we buy come from a place of self-love, rather than self-hate? Pick the dress because you love it, not because some magazine says it’s a must have. Does that anti-cellulite cream really work? Do you actually enjoy wearing heels?

There are people out there who are quite literally profiting THOUSANDS from your self hatred (the self hatred they have conditioned you into having, by the way). The more ‘flaws’ they can convince you that you have, the more money you’ll spend trying to ‘fix’ them and the richer they then become. If that sickening cycle isn’t enough to make you stop and say ‘enough is enough’, then what is?

For more inspiring content like this, why not follow me on Instagram at @jesskitchingwrites? All images illustrated by me. More can be found at @sisterhoodillustration

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