It’s never been a secret that some people love to put women down and in specific ways, just because they’re women. It happens online and off. And most of the time, these people formulate their abuse towards women on the most important (sarcasm) thing about them: their appearance!
It happens at school, work and in the media — social or otherwise. Even certain major political figures in the Western hemisphere have been in the news for doing it. It’s almost like there’s a silent, universal rule on how to deal with women who say, do, or exist in ways you don’t like: Attack what they look like saying/doing/being the things you dislike, probably make obscene comments about their sexuality too, and for bonus points, round off the job with a few expletives.
I’ve seen this in various forms, and I know you have too. It’s ugly, repetitive, and of course, terrible for the self-esteem. If cross-culturally, women are conditioned to believe that having good looks is the leg up they need to do well in life and a mean-spirited person wants to break one down by telling her she lacks in that front, it’s going to work.
It shouldn’t be that way. So in true, gal-pal, Tesneem’s Corner style, I am going to reiterate that this is all tosh and fight more in your corner by showing you ways to push back against all of it.
For starters, let’s do some inner work.
No matter what you’ve been told about where your value as a woman lies, it isn’t in your appearance. You’re a whole person, complete with her own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, and feelings. You are not just your shell — because that’s what your appearance is, your shell (or your skin suit, whatever you want to call it). You need to start believing that.
Spend time exploring your inner workings. What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up? What do you stand for? It’s never too late to get to know yourself and value her. And you can do this again and again. We forget what we’re made of sometimes, so a nice reminder and even a friendly kick to get us going won’t do us any harm.
Choose to see yourself from the perspective of who you are instead of what you are. Do this every day, and build your identity around that. When you’re secure in yourself, whatever goes on outside of you shakes you less. That includes snide remarks, back-handed compliments and even personal appearance changes that make you feel uncomfortable.
We can’t always control these things or other things that happen to us, but our reaction to them makes a massive difference.
I am not saying that you’re now going to be shielded with a force field that protects you from all distress (and oh do I wish for one!) but hopefully, you’ll grow more resilient and come through the rougher times like the brave person you can be.
It’s also a very good idea to evaluate the places from where you’re most likely to receive harmful messages about your self-worth. Is it social media? The newspapers and magazines from your local newsagent? Conversations with friends?
When you get an idea, start taking steps to limit your exposure to them. You can unfollow those accounts, stop buying those magazines, rip the unnecessary pages from the morning paper, or tell your friends why you don’t like the conversation and change the subject. Whatever it is you have to do, do it.
Now for the outer stuff.
I’ve always believed that what we project on the outside has a strong, bi-directional relationship with what is going on on the inside. How we act isn’t just reflective of our beliefs and feelings, it influences them as well.
We need to pay attention. We’re working on resisting negative messages and seeing ourselves as complete, three-dimensional beings who aren’t just their appearance, yes? So we need to start seeing other women the same way. We are not competitors in some daily, universal, beauty pageant where we have to tear each other apart to win, so we need to act like it.
The more we act on what we learn, the more it has a chance of becoming ingrained in us.
In fact, let’s go a step further and encourage other women to see themselves that way and work together on holistically building true, positive, self and body images.
The take-home message?
The voices that say cruel things about our self-worth can feel deafening, and the messages they send can pierce through our hearts. But we can start muffling them because the work starts within.
And to those that still persist, we, all types of women from everywhere, are just going to let you know that we don’t care. Because change.