Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why other women are always more beautiful

As I mentioned in my last post, girls competing with other girls, women competing with other women, is a behavioural pattern which we learn from the day we're born. But we can break that pattern!

I don't know about you, but it made me sick to compare myself to other women for so many years. I'm talking about other girls in school who were prettier than me, women in the street who were thinner, had smoother skin, nicer hair... Women in magazines. How could I waste so many years worrying about my weight, my skin, my hair, my face... Here are a few lessons I've learned over the years:

1. Photos of stars, advertising images, are almost always extremely heavily photoshopped. Read: it is not possible to look like this in real life. Follow the links and you'll see just how incredibly photoshopped images tend to be.

2. When you look at other women, you always spot their most beautiful feature - oh, I wish I had her legs! When she might in fact have a really ugly face.

A brilliant experiment is to look at other women as potential (sexual) partners for a few days. This means you no longer compete with them - an extremely empowering reversal of roles! Try it, it's really incredible. You don't need to actually flirt or make out with any other women, unless that's your thing. For this exercise, it's enough to just view other women as potential romantic interests.

This exercise is a real eye-opener. It's worth it for this liberating feeling alone, this enormous pressure falling of your shoulders. It also helps you realise that physical features are only a part of what is interesting about another person.

3. It's a waste of time to be with a partner who expects you to conform to their (physical) ideal of a woman. Who expects you to shave your legs and whatnot, wear makeup, "do" your hair, wear particular clothes... You don't need to be with someone who expects you to be this cookie-cutter woman. It's a two-way street though: why should you determine what your partner is supposed to look like?

4. Finally, what liberated me from a whole load of pressure was to learn about feminism and to read the book Femininity, which shows you just how ridiculous and arbitrary all these aesthetic dictates are. This opens up a can of worms, though. While feminism will make you feel confident to stop worrying about your looks and to waste hours each week grooming yourself to conform to this arbitrary ideal of femininity, you will encounter a whole new set of pressures, as people will give you "the look" when they see your hairy armpits, other women will feel you're letting yourself down by not caring about your looks, and you may, quite simply, feel really lost for while. I'll say a bit more about my experience with that in my post on 26th December.


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