Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Getting through this Spring Break Season!

   So it's here. You all know what I'm talking about. The week loved, and dreaded, by many. The week everybody has been preparing for. The week girls from all around the world join a pact to body-shame other girls. The week you've sweated over in the gym for the past month. The one week a year it's perfectly acceptable to post half-naked pictures. The week with never-ending pressure to be the most fun you've had all year. This week is known as no other than Spring Break. (cue jaws music)

   Don't get me wrong- I love Spring Break. I love being able to get up and leave my normal life behind and travel to the ocean for a week. (or wherever you may end up this season!) However, me and this Spring Break have a love/hate relationship. I love it for the obvious reasons- sun tan lotion, bathing suits, relaxation, good food, beach hair, friends, sandy feet, tan lines (because who doesn't get a sense of satisfaction when they've reached their maximum tan?) However, on the flip side of Spring Break is the insecurity. Girls on the beach. (how does she look that good coming out of the ocean?) People looking at you- and in a bikini. (please stop staring at me.) Pictures. (is that a fat roll?) Bathing suits. (can't I just go in something more comfortable.. like, jeans?) Stereotypes. Fat. Exciting. Skinny. Pretty. Fun. Wild. Boring. Popular. These are all things that come with Spring Break, and things I'm hoping to overcome this season.

   I know how hard it can be on a girl's self esteem during the weeks surrounding Spring Break. Chances are, you aren't happy with your body. Not many people (girls, in particular) are. Feel alone? Don't believe me? Check out a couple statistics: 

Nine out of 10 teenage girls are unhappy with the shape of their bodies
Research shows that the desire to be slender and "beautiful" dominates the life of 14-year-olds.
Only one in 10 of the 2,000 girls who were questioned were happy with their appearance.
Three-quarters of the girls thought that thin girls were more popular and attractive to boys, while 86 per cent of overweight girls thought their thinner counterparts had more girl and boy friends.
More than half of all teenage girls despaired that they would never look like their female role model. 

   Ok. So now that we've covered that insecurity and body image is a very real problem that young girls struggle with, let's see if we can solve it. Or at least try.

   The root of our insecurity is comparison. Constantly looking at other girls, stalking girls pictures, trying to edit, trying to photoshop, looking at magazines, anything to make ourselves feel better. Heck, we're bombarded with comparison whether we're looking for it or not. You can't open instagram during the season of Spring Break without seeing a girl exposed and leaving little to the imagination. You can't browse the internet or check your phone without seeing ad's of incredibly unrealistic beauty standards. You can't take a walk in the mall without having a dinosaur sized pair of breasts in your face from Victoria's Secret. You can't do much of anything these days without being affected by comparison. It's proven that humans use nearly 11 hours of media consumption a day- whether that be through tv, music, movies, magazines, or the internet. 11 hours a day! That's practically the entire time we're awake. That means from the moment we wake up and check our phones, we're smacked in the face with ads. I would argue that this is the very problem of today's body image problem. 

   As previously stated, more than half of all teenage girls despaired that they would never look like their female role model. This statistic enrages me. I mean really just enrages me. It makes me want to throw this laptop out of my window and go live in South Africa for the rest of my life. Ok not really, but kinda. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear that more than half of teenage girls are expected to live up to a standard that is simply unrealistic! These "role models" girls have are simply put, fake. Not saying they aren't beautiful or possess attractive qualities, but most of the photos they see are false. Touched up. Photoshopped. Edited. Nowadays you can do anything through editing. Make your eyes a different color, make yourself more tan, whiter teeth, clearer skin, slimmer waist, bigger breasts, different hair color- you name it and you can do it. The problem with this is that girls are expected to look at these images and then look in the mirror and be happy. Of course after browsing the web for 2 hours and come across 100 ads of women, I won't feel great fresh out of the shower with nothing on. What I'm getting at is that these girls we're comparing ourselves to aren't real. And I know what you might be thinking- ok so celebs are touched up but what about the girls from my school that I see everyday? They can't be touched up. Which brings me to my next point.

   Unless I'm behind on the latest technology and there has been a machine invented to virtually photoshop yourself, I am under the impression that what you see is real. So yes, that girl with killer legs that sits in front of you in class actually does have that good of legs. And yes, that boy with blue eyes so piercing you feel unworthy to look his way, does indeed have incredible eyes. And that girl on instagram that went to your high school might in fact really have a size 0 waist. I won't be naive to the fact that all bodies are different and that some might seem more appealing to you. However, get this through your head. Bodies are made different, not made better. You don't have to be pretty like her, you can be pretty like you.

   Trust me, I know firsthand how awful it is to compare yourself to others when you feel inadequate. But that's the problem right there. You feel inadequate. Comparison can be a good, healthy thing if you only have the right mindset about it! Just because a girl has great legs doesn't mean her grades are well in school, or her arms are toned, or she has money, or is happy for that matter. Looks aren't everything! This is much easier said then believed, but I won't stop saying it. I struggle with my appearance every day. Every. Single. Day. But through beating myself up year after year about my body, I've realized something. Even when I do workout or lose weight or get tan or have a good hair day, I'm still unhappy. (Exciting, right? I promise this is going somewhere) It doesn't matter what I do to my appearance, there will always be something I'm still nagging on. Either physical or mental. Yeah I might feel better after I lose a size on my waist, but that doesn't change that test I failed last week. Looks aren't everything. I read something recently that I fell in love with:

"Don’t tell me I’m beautiful. I have already heard the word rubbed raw across the flesh of so many girls before me. Thrown at them like rocks that beat the skin of those we do not understand.
“You are beautiful,” we yell with such contempt. “!*&$%# , why won’t you just believe me, you’re beautiful!” It is not a compliment. It is a victory march of your own self sacrifice. “You’re beautiful,” we say through gritted teeth. “You’re beautiful,” we spit out through tears, looking at a reflection we hate. “You’re beautiful,” we say, holding a body that has never felt the arms of another. “You’re beautiful.”

Don’t tell me I’m beautiful. A word like that floats on the surface, give me something with depth. Tell me I’m intelligent. Tell me I’m courageous. Tell me that when I laugh the whole world smiles. Tell me that my voice is sweeter than strawberries. Remind me that my hands have helped flowers grow, painted the ocean, and captured the sky in my phone. Assure me that with a mind like mine, I can change the world. 

Don’t tell me I’m beautiful. I don’t really care if it’s true. I’ve spent years trying to convince myself that beauty goes through and through. Don’t tell me I’m beautiful. I’ve felt the word splatter against me enough for a lifetime. I am better than the “beautiful” that slips from your lips. I am the ocean, 36,000 feet deep. There are parts of me you have never seen. I am outer space, infinite in your search. I am not simply “beautiful.” I’m a masterpiece."

   Us women should write this poem on our walls, set it as our desktop, tattoo it on our bodies. Why are we searching for beauty like it's the ultimate satisfaction? Why do we crave to be beautiful and to have affirmation from others more than we want to excel in school? Why do we crawl for compliments and get a certain high when we receive them? If we spent half the time we do of trying to make ourselves attractive and put that energy into something creative and useful, I'd believe we would be much happier (and successful!)

   One of the ways to stop comparing yourself to others is to stop looking! I know I know, I said that we're bombard with comparison whether we like it or not, but there are certain precautions we can take. For example, if every time you check instagram you feel worse about yourself, maybe cut down on checking it so often? Or even deleting the app off your phone for the week of Spring Break? Maybe if every time you see a girl's profile picture on Facebook you feel unattractive, you should unfriend her. (there is nothing wrong from removing toxins in your life. Never apologize for your attempt to get better!) Something I started doing about a year ago was actually facing my fears head on. If I stare at a picture of a girl in a bikini so long that I start to hate myself (and possibly her), I'll comment something nice on her picture. It makes me feel better, knowing I did something instead of self pitying myself, and it makes her feel better, because who doesn't love a compliment? Disliking someone over their appearance is ridiculous. As we know, we don't have much say in what we look like. (If we did, this post would be nonexistent) Therefore, hating a fellow girl simply for her appearance or the way she dresses is shallow. Try to bring a positive out of your insecurity! Build others up. This tactic has made me feel better more times than I can count. So next time you're feeling threatened- take a deep breath, say something nice about the girl you've spent the last 5 minutes destroying in your head, and go eat that chocolate bar you've been saying no to. You deserve it.

    During this week of Spring Break, I plan to check social media less a day. I can't be checking every 5 minutes to see yet another perfect body. I won't be deleting all social media off my phone, but I can promise you I will be checking it less. If you don't feel you're strong enough to handle that, delete it for a week! I guarantee you'll enjoy your time off more if you're not constantly obsessing over instagram. Or twitter. Or snapchat. Or Facebook. And be careful what you post and comment. If you are one of those girls that gets 400 likes on a picture, don't let it define you. Stray away from comments regarding someone's weight whether good or bad. These are all things I'm working on.
   So what your boyfriend's ex girlfriend is more blessed than certain areas than you. Who cares that you didn't get a lot of likes on your bikini post? Does it really matter that you don't have that perfectly toned stomach? Working out, getting fit, and losing weight are all great goals that anyone can aspire to- in moderation. Getting fit wont cure your happiness and being skinny wont make you any smarter. Focus on what's really important.

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul, you have a body." C.S. Lewis

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