Monday 9 April 2012

"She Ain't Pretty"

"Her ego wrote cheques incredibly fast but her personality didn't have the cash. She ain't pretty she just looks that way." ~ She Ain't Pretty by the Northern Pikes

I did something bad. Really bad. So bad that I feel compelled to confess, to attempt to cleanse my soul. Are you sitting down? OK, (deep breath) here it is: I watched The Real Housewives of Vancouver. Two back to back episodes. That's two shame filled hours that I will never get back. I feel dirty.

OK, so I didn't kick a puppy. But I don't feel good about it. I mean, I REALLY don't feel good about it. Now I love my share of reality TV - Survivor, The Amazing Race, Dancing With The Stars. Mostly just fun and escapist. Bubble gum at the end of a work day. But when I turned off the TV after The Real Housewives I noticed something - I kinda started to think that I needed to be prettier, more tan, have better clothes, more money...In short, I didn't feel so good. Which is a very strange thing because as I was watching I was fascinated by how incredibly unlikeable these women actually are, despite the pretty hair and perfect skin.

I caught myself and stopped those thoughts dead in their tracks. Hell no! I have survived very nearly 43 years in this body and I refuse to feel bad about it. That's 43 years of laughter, tears, frustration, celebration, illness and strength! In fact, I kinda like me and this body that carries my spirit within. But this experience reminded me of some things.

#1: Stop being so hard on yourself.
The first lesson is that I seem to be getting better and quicker at catching those ANTs (Remember from an earlier post? Automatic Negative Thoughts from the book Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen). It's OK that those thoughts creep in, we're only human after all. But it's important to catch them, recognize them for what they are, banish them, and then tell yourself a new story. No, I don't need Botox even though the 30 year old "housewife" got some for her 30th birthday (yes - simply awful). So my new story is that I'm pretty great as I am and if my niece and nephew love me then everything is pretty perfect!

#2: Careful what you feed your mind.
This lesson was a big reminder to me. When I was in the depths of my depression and my mood was very delicate I became very protective about what I would read, listen to, or watch on television. I learnt the hard way that a Gwyneth Paltrow movie where her character kills herself in the end is probably not the best viewing choice for someone deeply depressed (one time when I could have used a spoiler alert). So time to get back on track. Kind of like eating healthy and getting exercise, it's vital that you practice good mental hygiene. I know, it sounds funny - like dental floss for your brain. But the next time you pick up a book, flip on the TV or even engage in a conversation, think about what it might do to your spirit.

#3: Time to reclaim the word feminism and redefine beauty.
It's 2012 and we have television shows masquerading as reality that celebrate the truly lowest common denominator of female culture. These women are the worst kind of consumers - they consume things and each other at an equally rapid pace. So sad. And here's where I feel bad again. I have never wanted to be the kind of woman who judges other women and I can't help but judge the Housewives, and judge them harshly. Unfortunately, the media seems to feed our insecurities about ourselves and holds up these false ideals of beauty and independence. I don't know for sure but I think the Gloria Steinem, Marlo Thomas, et al did not have The Real Housewives franchise in mind when they fought, not so long ago, for women's rights.

So here's my challenge to myself and to you. For the next week or so, stop yourself whenever you think that you aren't pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, rich enough. Just stop. Remind yourself that you are fabulous in your own, perfect way. And if you hear a friend or colleague start in about how they need to lose weight or that they look old or whatever, just stop them. Don't encourage it because they are also fabulous in their own perfect way!

And you know what my antidote was to feeling less than perfect after my awful television experience? Tina Fey's Bossypants. She has a chapter called "All Girls Must Be Everything" where she talks about the ideals of beauty and how we all discover this at a young age. Here's what she said:

Every girl is expected to have caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling. - Tina Fey

Arguably, Tina Fey is one of today's most attractive women. She has a sharp sense of humour, she's smart, she's strong & successful, and yes, she's pretty too. But all of these things together create the complete package: an interesting woman. And shouldn't that really be what we aspire to in life?

KB xo

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