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perfection is no panacea


Confident women are bad for the economy.

Think about it.

Imagine a world where women felt perfectly happy with themselves. There would be no anxiety about bad hair days, weight gain, or crow’s feet. This obsession with physical perfection awakens a deep sense of inadequacy which we then try to smother through consumerism.

Step outside, switch on the TV or flick through a magazine and you’ll see a barrage of information telling women how to look and behave. And if you don’t fit in that mould, then you’re too skinny, too fat, too smart, or too shallow.

The basic message is this: if you’re a woman, you’re not enough. Because if you were, then you’d stop buying everything on display that will make you beautiful. And you will be beautiful only if you buy the latest hair product, makeup range, or weight loss program. Without these crutches, then you’re just not good enough. Look at the sheer humanity you manifest when you’re not dolled up to perfection before you step out the door. We wouldn’t want that.

If women stopped buying said products, then this would probably cause a significant dent in our economy. And so the media barrage of the inherent inadequacy of women continues. Some fashion trends seem deliberately designed to make you feel bad. Fit in those skinny jeans, at all costs. If you have a muffin top, then you’ve failed in life.

Other messages are tailored to your cultural insecurities. If you’re Asian, then choose one of the classic skin whitening creams designed to bleach you several shades lighter. If you’re Caucasian, then pick a tanning booth or fake tan to toast you several shades darker.

There’s a big difference between looking after yourself and trying desperately to be something you’re not. Let’s face it, genetics dictate a fair bit about who you are today – your temperament, the colour of your skin, and your predisposition to weight gain, to name a few. If you come from a family of curvy women and kill yourself on a treadmill to stay a size 8 (because anything else is just not good enough) it seems a tad self-negating.

Exercising at the gym because you want to be healthy is entirely different to feeling ugly if you’re not exactly 47.5 kg. Having a skincare routine is not the same as lathering yourself with layers upon layers of make-up to hide yourself from the world. You are already beautiful, as you are. Come to peace with your imperfection because every single human being on this planet has something they struggle with. And you know what? You’re still worthy of love and belonging. Don’t let media messages fool you. Being skinny and beautiful won’t protect you from pain. We’ll all get hurt. Life is like that. But you’ll bounce back, because you’re stronger than you know.

Individually, we can’t dismantle this obsession with perfection. But together, we can make positive changes in the way we view ourselves, and what we teach our daughters. Pay attention to what magazines you read and bring home to your daughter. Teach her that she is already enough, even if the world at large seems to tell her otherwise. Inoculate her from harmful media messages by nurturing her self-esteem. Help her see that her patience, determination and kindness will carry her through the storms of life. Her character, not her dress size, will determine how well she’ll weather the inevitable ups and downs that come with living.

Nobody can Photoshop life. Life is messy and full of joy and pain. It takes courage to step outside that door and be imperfect in a world that tries very hard to tell you that looking perfect is a panacea. Don’t believe that lie. Believe in yourself instead, and be part of a growing tide of women who show their girlfriends, mothers, daughters and sisters that we are already enough, as we are.

By Raidah Shah Idil

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2 thoughts on “perfection is no panacea

  1. Pingback: What’s it really like to wear a hijab by Raidah Shah Idil « Maryam Chahine

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