It was Friday night, my friends and I had just finished dinner and we were excited to spend a night out on the town. We did what all girls do when they get ready – turn on some music, ask each other for outfit advice and slowly nurse our red solo cups of cheap wine. It had been the first time I had seen my girlfriends from college in seven months. Naturally, we were excited to relive our time together but I couldn’t shake this unwelcome wave of insecurity. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a very long time.
What triggered it? My friend, who for the sake of the story we’ll call Carrie (for some odd reason we have an ongoing debate on who is which Sex and the City character). Carrie began to point out what she liked about all our bodies, which sounds weird from an outsiders’ perspective – but let’s be real, girls have a habit of being overly-aware of their appearance. Being as close as we are, we have always felt comfortable enough to compliment one another. But for some odd reason it felt strange that night. It was like Carrie was picking out the features she liked best in all of us, analyzing and comparing us to the point where I started to feel self-conscious that I wasn’t as skinny as my friend Miranda or didn’t have a nice butt like Charolette.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, I understand. It’s petty stuff like this that we pretend doesn’t bother us but deep down does. And if you still don’t understand, you’re extremely lucky to be blessed with the confidence level of Beyoncé.
What I’m getting at is that insecurities don’t necessarily have to come from billboards or magazines. They can also develop by the type of friends we surround ourselves with. Of course, any good friend would never intentionally want to make their friends feel bad about their bodies but it happens more often than not.
What we have to be more aware of is how we unintentionally tear one another down, when we are so critical of our own bodies.
While I know we continue to shed light on this issue, I don’t think it is talked about nearly as much as it should be. I can’t even imagine what it is like to be in high school nowadays with the pressures of social media – more specifically Instagram. Seriously. I saw a girl I used to babysit when I was younger who is attempting to be Instagram famous. This girl is a sophomore in high school and brings a DSLR camera on her family vacations so her mom can take bikini pictures of her on the beach. First off, I feel weird even looking at her account. Second, I can think of so many things that are wrong with that picture. Finally, I automatically think of “Mean Girls” and Amy Poehler’s ‘cool mom’ character.
I know how hard high school was for me and I know that I wouldn’t be able to handle letting my daughter face all the cruel judgement of today’s society – think about it. Girls are openly letting people all over the world criticize their bodies on social media. Of course, you see the girl’s friends commenting “Yas” and “Omg can I be you?”. It’s a way of validating that our bodies are worth admiration and it’s a little insane.
So what’s the solution? I think we need to have those uncomfortable conversations – even when it’s with a friend. If your friend is constantly fishing for compliments with comments like “Guys, why am I so fat?” maybe throw her for a loop. Agree with her – harsh, I know. But if we keep building up false self-esteem it gets us nowhere. Your words make an impact, even when you think they are meant to be positive or complimentary. My advice to you: spend less time comparing and, just in case you haven’t been told yet today, you’re beautiful just the way you are.
Author: Ashlee O’Neil
Author Bio: Ashlee is a 22-year-old living in Chicago. If she’s not out taking photos – she’s probably eating or sharing her thoughts on the Internet.
Link to social media or website: http://www.ashleeoneil.com