Monday, July 25, 2011

The Perfect Imperfection

I have a huge problem with the way girls and women are made to feel in this society. I'm taking a class called women's studies and body image because it interests me so much.

I like strong female characters in a book, and just as equally, I like strong male characters. Of course, not all your female characters will be strong; neither will your male characters.  It's nice for both women and men, boys and girls, to read/watch/hear about strong female and male characters. The problem lies, perhaps, when genders make this a one-sided argument. Men deal with body image as well. I have many male friends who have told me so, but let me come back to the whole female body image thing--(because I cannot give you a male perspective). 

When I was little, I use to pray God would make me pretty, because I didn't understand what beauty was, or what it was supposed to be. I fell victim (like many of us) to the imperfections of adolescences. I was quite...round, I had this horrible line of acne connecting my eyebrows, and more acne all over my forehead and chin. I was made fun of...and guess who made fun of me the worst? Girls. Girls who should stick together and defend each other’s beauty. I think that's why I hoped God would make me pretty.

Even though these girls made fun of me, I was somehow naive enough to try and be their friends. Yeah. haha. I never learned. These girls picked up a trait, however, that many girls/women share---being completely and utterly vicious when it comes to other girls and their appearances. I was at fault for this for a while. It stopped one day after something my Daddy said. I made a comment about a woman on the cover of a magazine (like People, or something or other)--something about how she wasn't all that pretty to be in the 1st slot for 'most beautiful people', and Daddy said, "She's not there because of her looks, it's because of all the good things she did."

My outlook on beauty is so different now. I try to base everything on personality, on what is on the inside, like all those children's books I read when I was younger, (and like my favorite Disney movie teaches you--Beauty and the Beast). This process is hard, because human nature is difficult to deal with. What's sad is you still have to face the unconfident girls who, maybe without meaning so, will hurt your feelings and bring you down, because they feel threatened by you. 

It's ridiculous especially from people who don't know you, but I get it all the time. If I have customers who are girls, they aren't as nice as their fellow male companions. And they seem to hate it more if the males are nice. haha. Yesterday, for instance, hardly any of the women who came through my line (who were around my age) said anything to me when I asked how they were. 

Now, just because I can look at others and see their beauty, doesn't mean I can see it in myself. I focus on all my imperfections. I read once that looking at our reflection is like hearing our voice recorded---none of us like to hear ourselves, we think we sound awful. 

Perhaps my problem stems from the years I was made fun of for my appearance. People also wanted to change me all the time--my hair was never right, my makeup was never right, neither were my clothes. Gets frustrating. It wasn't until my Junior year in High School when I finally got some positive feedback. You know those transformation movies? Like The Princess Diaries and such? Yeah. That was me, only I'm not secretly a princess. 

Then people liked me. I was the same person, but I looked different. So people liked me. Now I'm in college, any time I critique my appearance, my boyfriend says, "You're perfect!" or "You're amazing!" (ALL THE TIME). lol. At some point, I'll believe him, right? 

It's something I have to get used to. Even though it's taken well over a year, and I'm still not used to it. 

My point is, no one--men nor women should have to 'get used to such a thing', we should grow up knowing we're all beautiful, no barrier between inside or out. Hopefully that's something we can get across in our books. 


  1. AMEN!

    I think, thanks to shows like Glee (I'll always plug Glee or mention Bradley Cooper if possible), that pop-culture is FINALLY recognizing we've got a problem that needs some fixing.

  2. Human nature is at times IMPOSSIBLE to deal with, but you're right; if you persevere and look for the good in everyone, what's on the outside won't matter so much. I love this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Awww, this is so close to my own heart; I, too, was a late "bloomer". It was ninth grade when it came together for me and guys started to notice me, which led to the popular girls being nice to me (but it was too late, I already didn't trust them at that point--Heh). I never forgot the hurtful things they said. Even to this day, I still find myself never being "pretty" enough to meet my own standards. But I don't have that prob when looking at other people. I can almost always find something beautiful about anyone. And yes, mostly it's because of some quality they have inside. Like you and your effervescent and sweet spirit. Lovely post, beautiful girl! :)

  4. You are beautiful, Ashley. Inside and outside. When I first saw your pic, I thought, "What a gorgeous girl! She's so lucky to be pretty AND talented". When I hear stories like this, it always amazes how similar we are despite our different backgrounds.

    I have body image issues. It was hard enough as a teen to deal with the feeling of belonging with your peers without the constant pressure to look like the models on the front cover of the magazines. Now, as a grownup and a mother, the battle still continues. It is no longer enough to be able to cook, keep house, and nurture our kids. Society and the media dictate we have to look good as well, even when changing diapers. I'm no fashionista so I feel as if I'm failing at this.

    Then my family shows me that they love me for who I am, and the insecurity goes away. It's not what other people think of us that is important, it's what we think of ourselves that matters most. If we know our worth, then we know we are truly beautiful human beings.

    Lovely, thought-provoking post from a beautiful person. Thanks Ashley for sharing this with us.

  5. Aw, Ashley, you're really pretty :D But I don't want to just spew back what Cherie said, haha.

    Anyway, I've noticed something while reading high school novels, and usually they involve the main character not thinking that she's very pretty, but because of some change, she realizes she is pretty after all. Physical transformations are always fun, especially a la the Princess Diaries (especially when I can see it with my own eyes!) but I really like the mental transformations.

    On the other hand, maybe a character doesn't even care what she looks like, but it's what she does that really makes her beautiful. She can be as plain as a potato, but her self-confidence, values, and actions is what really makes her beautiful. And then it doesn't matter how asymmetrical face her is, or if her eyes are too small, or if she isn't skinny enough.

    Same with guys. I mean, eye candy is always a plus, and I guess that's why even in movies and TV shows, attractive people play "plain" characters, but what really draws me to someone is their personality. Society teaches men to be macho and anti-emotive, sometimes even encourages them to be childish frat boys...and who are the ones who end up getting married?

    ...Not that I can answer this myself.

    Double standards are always interesting though. I wonder if there's a good YA novel on that...?

  6. @ Bethany - I hope you're right! I think shows on television aimed at teens should definitely address the problem.

    @ E.R. King - Human nature can be our biggest obsticle sometimes!

    @ Anita - You do always find something beautiful in everyone, and that's my goal! And you're soooo sweet to everyone you meet, and everyone remembers you for your kindness! That's beautiful to me!

    @ Cherie - Aww, Cherie! I do dislike the whole dynamic that we must look great when doing everything! Sometimes, I just don't feel like getting dressed up all nice. It's hard also hard to find the time to be healthy when you're a mom (obviously, I'm not speaking from experience, but gosh! I can just imagine!). I struggle so much with body image! You know what I'm trying to do? Remember that I'm exercising because I want to be heathy, not so I can change myself. No one but me ever finds anything wrong with me. And you're a beautiful person inside and out!

    @ AderuMoro - I love what you said about what the characters do that makes them beautiful! I agree! It's all about what's in their heart. And LOL @ the frat guy thing! My boyfriend is in a frat (but he's not in the typical frat, or a typcial frat guy). He is aslo pretty scrawny, he's also pretty emotional as far as when it comes to me...well, he'll do anything and everything I ask!
    I wonder too, about the YA novel. If you find one first or write one first, you should let me know. Idk if I could do it!!

    Another thing I don't understand are girls who date jerky guys. And they know it. If my boyfriend was a jerk, I wouldn't stand for that. I want to be treated like a Princess. lol. And I am. :)

  7. This is so true and so well written, Ashley. And sadly, so universal. I think that's why redemption themes and movies such as "Mean Girls" are so popular. People relate. Beauty is only skin deep. If only more people could react to the beauty within.

  8. I totally agree that it's not just a girl problem. There definitely has to be strong and not strong characters of both sexes! It's that way in real life, after all. And there are SO MANY WAYS to be "strong."

  9. YAY that we have freedom to throw some worthwhile issues that need addressing into our writing.
    Great post.

  10. It seems that you minimize the huge and primary role that man plays in degrading woman. Songs, films, lewd comments day in and day out. It is a privilege to be sheltered from the harsh reality that men see women as inferior. The average man does not respect females. Chemically, they respond to women as if they were objects. Scientific studies and general human experience have proven this terrible fact. You should not blame women, who are the victims of society, for reinforcing objectification. They are not the ones to blame. No, but they are the ones who will change everything.

  11. Such a fantastic post.

    Somehow, I think I was oblivious to all the name calling and rude girl scoffs in high school. I was a nerd. I know I was. And SO not cute. But I never remember their comments bothering me. Somehow--and THANKFULLY--I made it through junior high and high school unscathed. But its just tragic that we have this kind of "ripping and tearing down" mentality in society. Tearing others down does NOT make you look better. Ever.

    Also, I agree with Aja, that much of this has to do with the male driven image of the perfect woman. Not to say that us girls don't need to be a little more kind and loving to one another... we certainly shouldn't buy into all the crap out there, and have a responsibility to act better. But I do agree that male objectification of women is one of the main culprits of this problem.

    Like I said, REALLY good post!