Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Beauty Survey

A few months ago I wrote a blog entitled “Unattractive” about how I was feeling—you guessed it—unattractive. I have long loathed this in myself, after all: Am I this shallow? Is this all I care about?

Men ask the question, "Am I strong enough?" They ask this question of many people and manifest their strength in different ways.

Women ask the question, "Am I pretty enough?" We ask this question of many people and manifest our beauty in different ways.

Men are not ONLY concerned with strength and women are not ONLY concerned with beauty (these values may differ by sexual orientation and cultural norms, but these are incredibly common questions I've seen in my own heterosexual, female perspective). It's not wrong to ask these questions, but it's important to look at who we are asking and why.

Some women try to prove their beauty with cleavage and skin.

Some women try to prove their beauty through strict diet regiments and food rules.

Some women try to prove their beauty by asking anyone and everyone, "Am I pretty? Am I worth it? Will you love me?"

Some women stop trying to prove their beauty because they believe they have none.

And some women stop trying to prove their beauty because they've realized there's nothing to prove and never was. It's okay to want to be attractive. What differs is how we fulfill this need and how much we let it take over our lives.

After one night of feeling particularly ugly, fat, and worthless, I decided I could either whine some more about how ugly, fat, and worthless I felt or I could talk to other women about how ugly, fat, and worthless they felt. I picked the latter.

I contacted forty women whom I greatly respect—college students, single women, married women, doctors, nurses, mothers, psychologists, republicans, democrats, Christians, non-Christians—and asked them seven honest questions:

#1. When do you feel the most beautiful? Is it something you do or something someone else does?

#2. What is the most extreme/silly/ridiculous thing you've done/bought/tried to attain beauty?

#3. In your opinion, how important is it for you to look/feel attractive to your significant other? And, why is this important?

#4. What does feeling unattractive or fat or ugly look like? Feel like? When does it happen and why?

#5. Do you ever struggle with comparing yourself to other women? If so, how and why do you/we do this?

#6. The "men are visual" mantra gets preached and sometimes pressures women into working hard at keeping their man interested and excuses promiscuity. How do you balance this with your other qualities and not let "being pretty" be your main goal?

#7. Essentially, I want to know: How do you honor your beauty without letting it define who you are?

Slowly, the responses began flowing in and I received honest and helpful feedback from these brave women. Hearing that other women often struggle to feel good enough and pretty enough made me feel a lot better.

I assured these women that their names would not be shared with the cyber world, but I valued their answers for my own growth and hopefully the growth of others. I have already put several hours into reading and sorting the responses. I like research. I like asking questions and making sense out of what I learn. I will share what I find here once I am done.


Anonymous said...

Hi Heather!! I went to one of your zumba classes with a friend and loved it!!! She took me as a guest and I had the best time. Is there anyway to get a video or songs that you had? Im not a memeber but would love to continue your workout!!! Its the best. Thanks so much.

Heather said...

Hi there "Anonymous." I don't know if you will get a notice that I commented on your comment, but I'll at least try. Since I don't have any of your contact info, come back to class anytime and I'll get ya some music.