If Beauty Hurts, We’re Doing it Wrong
The pursuit of “beauty” causes an enormous amount of hurt today. Whether that’s the emotional and pyschological burden of feeling inadequate and disgusted with your appearance or the physical pain of starvation, cosmetic surgery, hair removal, purging or countless other acts of “beauty work,” it HURTS. Beauty shouldn’t hurt. It should be something positive, happy, fun and inclusive of real, living, breathing people. If our pursuit of beauty hurts, we might be doing it wrong. Isn’t there a better way?
We echo the words of the always fascinating documentary filmmaker Elena Rossini of “The Illusionists” who reminds us who the real illusionists are: the beauty, diet, and mass media industries. “They create, shape and maintain our shared beliefs, values, and rules, promoting aspirational ideals of female beauty that are very difficult – if not impossible – to achieve, in order to create new needs and apprehensions that fuel a 500 billion dollar industry.”
Yes, you read that right! 500 billion dollars every year is devoted to you feeling like you must live up to an illusion in order to be happy, loved, beautiful, and successful. Oh, the lies we buy! Rossini quoted the American anthropologist Margaret Mead as saying “A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Do you believe this? If I didn’t believe it, I surely wouldn’t be writing this right now. I believe that “small group” could rid the world of the physical and emotional pain of seeking beauty in all the most painful places. That small group could redefine “beauty” back to its original place as a term that could be so much more all-encompassing and inclusive us all – that brings happiness instead of pain. Beauty should never hurt – that is an illusion. If beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong.
We’re [painfully] aware of how painful, yet so normal, some of our pursuits of beauty are. We are in the midst of a beautiful reality that is ours once we recognize it, grasp hold of it, and back away from living a painful illusion where achieving “beauty” so often hurts. When the digital world of female faces and bodies looks nothing like the natural world, is it any wonder that women have turned to physical alterations like breast augmentation, all-over hair removal and extremes like the HCG diet to meet these unreal standards? The possibility of achieving unnatural ideals through enhancements, procedures and products is a game-changer for what women today are capable of looking like. But what about our daughters, nieces, students, coworkers, etc? What will their own developing, aging, otherwise “flawed” forms look like in comparison to the realities we are manipulating? Next time you hear floods of radio ads asking you to come in for all-over laser hair removal, see billboards for breast enhancement or magazine ads for extreme diets, consider this info and remember, beauty doesn’t have to hurt.
Our goal is never EVER to shame or blame anyone who has elected to these pursuits or is going forward with them. We can’t look down on anyone for their own beauty pursuits because we all undergo our own pursuits toward perfection – the line is just different for all of us. The point here is that when we grasp the reality of our beauty, we begin to see ourselves for what our beauty really entails, and not what industries would have us believe is normal, attainable, and the only pathway to beauty, love, and happiness.
Enhance Your Breasts, Enhance Your Life? The Food and Drug Administration stated in a report that breast implants are safe but WILL fail within 10 years. “[Women] need to understand they’re going to need many removals and replacements for the rest of their lives,” states Zuckerman, president of National Research Center for Women & Families, a group that examines the safety of medical products. The FDA says up to 40 percent of patients who get silicone implants will need another operation to modify or remove them within 10 years. For women with implants for breast reconstruction, the number is even higher, at up to 70 percent. The biggest issue was scar tissue hardening around the implant, while pain, infection, ruptures and asymmetry followed close behind. Women with breast implants are also more likely to be diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.
Did you know silicone implants were pulled off the market in 1992 after concerns were raised about their safety and that leaking silicone was linked to dangerous immune-system disease? In late 2006, the FDA returned the implants to the market after clinical trials couldn’t find a clear link to the diseases. Plastic surgeons were clamoring for the return of the silicone versions because they say they look and feel more real than saline. After 14 years of no silicone implants, plastic surgeons breathed a sigh of relief and silicone implant procedures skyrocketed: “This is a great day for plastic surgeons and especially for their patients,” said Dr. Phil Haeck, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
It might be a great day for you, doctor, because you and your fellow surgeons will make billions off these “temporary devices,” (as they’re called by the FDA) but do your patients know what they’re in for? The FDA report states patients must get MRIs every two years to screen for “silent ruptures” of the silicone implants, which don’t deflate when they tear like saline implants so you don’t know when they’re leaking. That’s an extra $2,000 biannually for women who have elected to breast enhancement! Add it all up and the original $5K to $10K procedure will now cost a 25-year-old woman at least another $35K for re-implantation and $30K for the recommended number of MRIs throughout her life! And that is not including any health complications from all those surgical procedures, anesthesia, potential leaking or disease, time away from work, family, and life, etc. With plastic surgery up nearly 500% in the last decade as it becomes a normal part of our beauty pursuits, we must know the potential danger of our choices, and we want women everywhere to be happy and healthy – first and foremost.
HAIR-FREE: The NEW way to be! Did you know the ideal of being totally hairless from the neck down has only happened in the last couple decades? While American women have been shaving leg and armpit hair since the 1920s, and shaving the bikini line since at least the 1950s, the completely “bare” look has only been in style since the early to mid 1990s. If you research this, you’ll see many attribute this new beauty ideal to pornography that hit the Internet in the late 90s and sent billions of images of women across the world in an instant.
Here’s the thing: getting waxed anywhere can be excruciating. On your eyebrows, lips, underarms or anywhere else, waxing hurts! And the latest new procedure, laser hair removal, is an unavoidable new standard if you listen to radio advertisements or see billboards. For thousands of dollars, women (and men) elect to multiple procedures to have their hair burned off by lasers to meet the latest standards of “beauty.” Of course, those who have this work done can’t be shamed or blamed for electing to it – many say they save time in the long run by not having to shave like they used to. But it’s important to pay attention to how quickly beauty ideals change. If it were 1995, we wouldn’t feel the pressure to be hair-free from our eyebrows down because our standard of beauty hadn’t narrowed to the degree it has today, and billions of dollars are invested in us believing hair-free is the only way to be!
HCG: Starving for Beauty: The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) diet is a very restrictive, low-calorie diet (and it happens to be No. 1 in Utah, where we currently research and reside). HCG is a hormone produced by pregnant women in the cells that produce placenta. For those electing to the HCG diet, daily hormone injections and a restricted diet of 500 calories per day is required. Marketers of the diet claim you can lose one to three pounds per day on the diet, but the FDA has not approved of HCG because there is no evidence to support it is a weight loss aid at all. Instead, the injections help decrease hunger and discomfort while consuming very few calories. The basis of the diet’s effectiveness is starvation.
The thing is, consuming only 500 calories per day forces your body to compensate by using stored glycogen, muscle and fat. Using these resources actually lowers your metabolism, which makes it harder for you to lose weight and metabolize properly. A bit of research shows many people on the HCG diet suffer side effects including headaches, dizziness, depression, mood swings, blood clots and confusion. Some women develop Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. And no wonder these side effects occur when you restrict your body to ¼ of the calories dieticians ask you to consume to live a healthy existence! You are capable of much more than being looked at, but on this diet, being looked at is about all you can muster. If this is a diet you are on or considering, please speak with a doctor or dietician who does not profit from backing the HCG diet to know what is most healthy for you. Be safe! We love you and want you to be healthy and happy!
Back Away from the Illusion…
The reality is, when we begin to back away from the illusion and embrace our beautiful realities, we might end up looking a little different than the rest of the world. We certainly won’t look like the unreal women across advertising-fueled media. Our joyful smiles, scars, freckles, wrinkles, hair, curves (or lack thereof), laughs, and confidence can and will be a beacon of light to a world of women, girls, men and boys desperately in need of light. Desperately searching for reality in the midst of an often painful illusion. Desperately in need of the hope that your beautiful reality can bring them. Do you grasp the power you hold? Can you begin to understand your unique ability to bring peace, happiness, and beautiful reality to those you pass by each day?
When we recognize the pain we cause to ourselves and the pain we experience in the name of beauty, we can begin to fight back. Have you undergone an elective surgical procedure in the name of beauty? Have you ever binged, purged, or starved yourself on an extreme diet? Have you painfully experimented with removing hair from your face or body to meet an ideal that only recently became a new standard of beauty? Have you believed these “beauty hurts” lies and constrained your true happiness, health and worth? Well guess what? “A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Let’s band together and change the world – beginning within ourselves and branching out to encompass all those we love, whether we’ve met them yet or not. Want two very helpful strategies to remind the world that if beauty hurts, we’re doing it wrong? Try these:
Kick Shame to the Curb: Body shame has been linked to disordered eating, unhealthy sexual practices (not saying “no” when you want to and not using condoms), plans for cosmetic surgery, diminished mental performance at school, diminished athletic performance, anxiety and depression, and sedentary lifestyles — and these impairments occur among all ethnicities and ages. In Lexie’s dissertation study (not yet published), 96 percent of her participants reported staying home from activities because they felt ashamed of their looks. All but one reported they have refused to go swimming for fear of not meeting the standards of beauty they think they should in a swimsuit, even with (especially with) their loved ones. Many had plans for cosmetic surgery. Do you see how hiding or changing parts of yourself might be your way of coping with shame for not meeting these unattainable ideals? Read this compelling post on shame to determine whether the choices you are making are rooted in shame or something happier and more progressive.
Flip the Script: Lean on Caitlin Moran’s rule of thumb for whether something is worth getting all worked up about: Are the men worrying about this as well? If they’re not, you can surely bet the reason you’re worried is because a profit-driven industry has been begging you to obsess about that flaw until you spend all your money to fix it. Surgical implants? All-over hair removal? 500-calorie diets? All lady problems. Maybe it’s time to rebel against the system that profits from giving us anxiety over the roots in our hair all the way down to the tips of our toenails.
Shine with Positivity: Research and real-life experience make it clear that when women and girls speak negatively about their bodies and their appearance, they negatively impact those around them. That goes for women talking about themselves in hateful ways in front of their children and family members, girls that degrade themselves in front of their friends, or any other time a woman or girl says awful things about herself in front of anyone near. Start today with a goal that you will never again say something negative about your appearance aloud, and soon the negative self-talk that floats through your mind will become less and less prevalent, too. To remind the world of these positive truths, we offer beautiful sticky notes or posters with positive truths, as well as bracelets you can give to those you love with a “Beauty Redefined” charm to remind them of all the ways they are beautiful. Find them here!
For many more awesome strategies to take back beauty, click here.