A Rant on Self Esteem: Must We Always Love Everything About Ourselves?

A Rant on Self Esteem: Must We Always Love Everything About Ourselves?

If you haven’t heard, Facebook has removed its “feeling fat” emoticon this week, apparently in response to online petition that gathered 16,000 signatures. The petition’s author, 24 year-old student Catherine Weingarten, posted a message to EndangeredBodies.org that stated, in part:

“I’m thrilled that [Facebook] decided to remove the ‘feeling fat’ emoji…. I feel so happy that I’ve helped eliminate one form of body shaming hatred on the internet.”

Now, I’m not a big fan of body shaming – or fat shaming – of myself or others. But the rhetoric around women’s looks – what we say and should say about ourselves and others – is getting itself into a tangle.

I’ve ranted before about Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns, and the notion that women have no self-esteem until we’re told that we’re beautiful by third parties (who want to sell us over-processed beauty care).

But what about the days when we’re not feeling ahhh-ma-zing? Are we betraying our gender by criticizing any physical part of ourselves?

Does self-esteem mean that we must always love every . single . part of ourselves?

Part of what drives me crazy with the “women have low self-esteem about their looks” thing is that near strangers who’ve bought into it interrupt me with pep talks for no good reason. I’ve had in-laws tell me “You don’t need that – you’re beautiful!” when they see me reach for a favorite red lipstick. As if I’m only wearing makeup because I think I’ll be mistaken for an extra from the Walking Dead without it. I’ve been accused of having a completely distorted self image for making a random comment about my “fivehead“.

I love my red lipstick. And I don’t really dislike my forehead – it’s mine and I wouldn’t look like me without it. But there are things I dislike about my looks. Especially things nobody likes, like pimples, bad hair days, and yes, a few extra pounds here and there. But that doesn’t have to mean I hate myself.

I regularly see things that make me feel very inferior – the Real Estate section of The New York Times makes me (and thousands of other people) feel very, very poor. But I’ll take that as a message to my issues – I don’t care about money enough to make gazillions – and as an American with a roof over my head and dinner on the table every night, I’m still at the rich end of the World Spectrum. But somehow I still feel insecure about not being super-rich? Hmmm…

But does that mean I have no self-esteem? It doesn’t have to. But somehow as women we’re not supposed to have any insecurities. Because if we do, we’ll just spiral out of control and hate ourselves entirely. So we have to keep all the negative talk at bay. Because you never know what dangers may lurk there.

I get that certain talk can be triggering to people with a history of eating disorders. I get it the way I get that last-night-at-the-bar photos are be triggering to people with histories of substance abuse. When you’re in a state of sensitivity to others’ opinions, social media can be a minefield. But if women are claiming our right to be ourselves – genuinely – that includes the right to be annoyed by aspects of our physical being.

Oh, and by the way, FaceBook hasn’t removed all their negative emoticons – we can still announce to the world that we’re feel “stuffed”, “ugly”, or “hopeless”. If we can deal with the backlash to our self-criticism.

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