I had an absolutely fabulous time in Eugene at the University of Oregon. One of the questions that I was asked at several of my talks was: what do you say to people who are having a hard time with our cultural standards of beauty and the bullying that comes along with it?
My answer is that I think the first step is realizing that the world is screwed up, we are fine. This is not our fault, but it sometimes becomes our problem. We get to decide how we deal with this. I think that one of the most insidious issues is that we’re told to look all kinds of places and ask all kinds of people to find out if we are worthy, sexy, attractive etc. I think that one way to address that is to start sorting out what is true from what is foisted upon us for someones else’s benefit. For example, things that people incorrectly think we should use to determine our worth. Here’s part of my list, feel free to put your additions in the comments!
Things that do not determine my worth:
Whether Alex Rodriguez would date me
Whether I fit into a sample size gown
Whether I fit into anything
What people think about how long it takes me to finish a marathon
Whether someone, a group of people, a majority of people, or anyone wants to have sex with me
Whether or not I have health issues
How I choose to prioritize my health
What anybody thinks of how I live my life
What anybody thinks of me at all
We have to live in this world and deal with other people’s beliefs. I think that one thing that can really help us make decisions about how to do that is to take back what is ours. I believe that I am the only person who gets to determine how I feel about myself (I can take other people’s beliefs in account, but who and how much is entirely up to me.) Many things improved in my life when I stopped believing that my worth, beauty, sexiness etc. were things that had to be assigned to me by others.
Some of this culture of bullying and shaming is a desperate attempt by people to feel better about themselves by putting someone else down. Some is about people with a grossly exaggerated sense of self-importance who actually believe that we should care what they think of us. Either way, we can take back what is ours to decide, and then work on dealing with the rest.
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