‘I love your hair colour – what’s it called?’
‘Eeek – look at those shoes. They’re amazing!’
‘I wish that I had your great skin. You don’t even need to wear make-up.’
I felt like a fly on the wall but I couldn’t help listening to the group of girls beside me as they greeted each other in a café. With the tables pushed together like sardines, I overheard their chat… and felt my heart sink.
I loved that they were complimenting and encouraging one another (go girls) but the conversation was focussed on their bodies and how they didn’t match up an unrealistic ideal of beauty.
I wanted – so SO badly – to turn around and say:
You were made for more.
So much more.
But I understand their thoughts. You and I, we live in a culture which in some ways seeks to reduce and limit us. A society which communicates a very narrow and unrealistic ideal about how a girl should be, think, and act in 2019.
For example, the message through many different aspects of the media is that girls should aspire to be ‘living dolls’. Our bodies become projects to be worked upon and constantly improved. We’ll never be enough until we’ve embarked on a process of grooming, dieting and shopping that aims to achieve the bleached, waxed, tinted look of our favourite celebrities who often choose extreme regimes, from punishing diets to plastic surgery, to achieve an airbrushed perfection.
No matter what women achieve in society, in sports and in culture, our worth is still reduced to how our body parts compare to a narrow and unrealistic ideal. Does anybody remember when the two most powerful women in UK politics Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon met? The front page of a popular UK newspaper exclaimed ‘Forget Brexit! Who won legs-it?’ along with a photo of their legs!
If you feel like this, you’re not alone. 69% of girls aged 7 to 21 feel like they’re not good enough. Worryingly, two-thirds of 7 to 10-year-olds feel like their value is based on what they look like.
We were made for so much, don’t you agree?
I believe that we were made by a God who gifted us with talents and passions and who invites us to use them to transform the world around us. I work with young women who are hope-bringers, culture shapers and society transformers.
And yes, we do need a shift in culture. We do need resistance against the multi-million-pound beauty industry who make £££s out of promoting body anxiety.
But we can help change the culture around us in our words and actions.
Here are some simple ways we can change the culture around us:
- Be mindful of your words. When you’re with your friends, steer the conversation away from focussing on physical appearance. Are you conforming in your words and actions to culture’s message that a woman’s value is based on her physical appearance?
- Limit your selfies. Very often these toxic messages infiltrate our heads and cause us to reduce ourselves to a collection of body parts. Selfies on social media perpetuate the idea that our worth and value are in our physical attractiveness.
- Be more thoughtful with your compliments. How are you celebrating and recognising the bravery, strength and gifts of the girls and women around you? Compliment and encourage girls and women on their strengths and gifts – compassion, curiosity and courage.
A long time ago, fashion designer Coco Chanel once said ‘A girl should always be two things: classy and fabulous.’
I’m so glad that, as women, you and I can be smart and honest, compassionate and courageous, creative and sporty… and many more things!
Today, on International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the amazing characteristics in the girls and women around us. Let’s compliment and encourage each other intentionally about the talents that God has given us. Let’s challenge the lie that our value is based on our physical appearance.
Let’s show the world that women were made for more.