Unveiling the Perfect Lie & Breaking through to the next level of Leadership for Women
NOVEMBER 11, 2016
There is a lot of literature for women in leadership, however there are a few practical guides to help women break through to the next level of their leadership. This week's blog we'll be discussing the challenge that women face in the way they perceive their bodies and relate to their appearance and how this can have a huge impact on their relationships, self-esteem and the way they lead.
THE PERFECT LIE
The drive in our society for thinness has caused 80% of American women to be dissatisfied with their appearance, which is causing 5-10 million women to suffer with eating disorders. If the average woman in America weighs 140 pounds and is 5’4’’ tall and the average American model weighs 117 pounds and is 5’11’’ tall; that means that most fashion models are thinner than 98% of women in America. The irony is that for 95% of dieters who want to be like 2% of the population who are models, their weight will be regained in 1-5 years. What’s even worse is how it’s affecting young girls today and even boys. Evidence shows that body dissatisfaction is emerging in both boys and girls at age 7 or 8! 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat and fear this more than cancer, nuclear war or losing their parents. In 2014 Dove compiled a global study for the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. They found around the world that only 2 percent of women describe themselves as beautiful and “Nearly a quarter of girls age 15-17 would consider undergoing plastic surgery.”
'Dove Choose Beautiful' video: Women all over the World make a Choice Average or Beautiful
Research is clear and reveals that this issue on beauty ideals reaches far and wide, affecting women and girl across the globe. But why have we let it get so bad, that it’s affecting the younger generation to such an extent? What is the cause of this distorted view on beauty that has tainted so many women? Studies reveal that the definition of beauty has become unattainable and limited, which negatively impacts self-esteem and causes women to hold back in reaching their full potential. There are clear correlations between the way women perceive their physical attractiveness to their self-esteem, which hinders their leadership abilities. The media also has a critical part to play in all this as research shows that one of the strongest influences in the development of body image issues are media images of thinness and attractiveness that set unrealistic standards of beauty. Adverts today portray the ‘ideal’ appearance of a woman, which is at odds with the rest of the population. In fact fewer than 5% of the population could ever realistically reach this ‘ideal’ body type. Since 2008 cosmetic surgery has gone up by 20% because of digitally altered images and marketing ploys creating a consumer demand to achieve a particular look. Studies also show that health is no longer the priority, but rather maintaining and cultivating an appearance, no matter what the toll on the body takes. That’s why certain practices that sacrifice health for appearances have been adopted such as steroid abuse or eating disorders. This growing obsession with thinness and a relentless quest for weight loss is associated with a disordered relationship with food and dieting.
What is the solution to this expanding obsession with being thin and focusing on the external, which is and has impacted so many individuals? What are keys that will liberate you to be at peace with your body? What will help you to accept the beautiful women that you truly are? A current study shows that in order to counteract the media images that promote the thin-body ideal we need to inform ourselves with the truth that the images we see on TV, social media or in magazines are unrealistically thin. It’s been proved that most magazines use computer technology to airbrush and hide flaws and blemishes in figures. That means that the girls we see in the media are not real and don’t exist. I’d rather be a real woman, curves and all than a fake one that’s been airbrushed into existence. We buy into the perfect lie that we have to live at these unrealistic standards because if we’re thin enough, we’ll be beautiful, likable, successful and happy. No wonder we feel like we’re always falling short because we’re comparing ourselves to a myth, a pseudo woman that doesn’t exist. I think that advertisers should come out with the truth and place labels on these thin-body ideal images saying, “airbrushed enhanced for marketing purposes” so that women would know the facts. Studies reveal that informative labels like these prove to increase self-esteem and body satisfaction. So next time you see the image of the perfect woman with flawless hair, teeth, skin and everything, know that up to 6 hours of enhancements and airbrushing took place to make the perfect lie.
Another few practical ways to boost your self-esteem is by not comparing yourself to those around you and limiting the amount of ‘glamour’ magazines you read or social media content you expose yourself to. Studies show that social comparison and media exposure to the thin beauty ideal increase body dissatisfaction, weight concerns and disordered eating behaviors. A current survey found that after 3 min of looking at a fashion magazine 70% of women felt shameful, guilty and depressed. The problem with comparing ourselves to those we perceive as more attractive than ourselves such as friends, strangers, fashion models or celebrities is that comparison shrinks us into self-consciousness. We think that somehow if we’re better looking than someone else, we’ll be happy, successful and likable. Or if we have better clothes, make up, career or car that we’re better than someone else – this we believe is because we define ourselves by what we look like and what we own. If we are free from this lie, then we eradicate competition and comparison. If I see a friend who has the latest iPhone 7, my value is not diminished and they are not stealing from my being, because I know that my identity is not defined by my iphone 6. This eliminates the need to compete or leave me feeling unsatisfied and frees me to focus my attention on things that matter rather than competing for consumerism.
"The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlights reel" - Steven Furtick | Image: Everlasting Radio
Your worth does result in putting a measuring tape against others to define your beauty. So next time you are tempted to complain to yourself that you’re just not as pretty or stylish or successful as the person next to you, take captive those thoughts and remember your worth does not come from comparison or consumerism. Remember that comparing is a trap, where no one wins. You always end up comparing your weaknesses with their strengths, which is a losing battle. We are all unique and were never created to be the same, otherwise life would be very bland and boring. You were created to be an original that finds worth in a higher purpose. Don’t buy into the lie trying to climb the ladder that leads us only deeper into loneliness and dissatisfaction.
Toxic Thinking can limit your Career | Image: CurveCreation
Beauty is not just skin deep. True beauty is love inside of you, reflecting on the outside. In a world where appearance seems to reign supreme it’s so important that we realize this because it’s not just affecting us, but also the next generation of girls. In fact studies show that mothers and girlfriends are one of the strongest and earliest influences in a girl’s life that shapes the way she feels about her body and beauty. Open and real discussions with daughters or girlfriends regarding real beauty can have a positive influence in boosting self-esteem and body image satisfaction. So it’s critical that we watch what we say because research health psychologists say that daughters can pick up negative comments about appearances and body insecurities from their mothers. The more caring and positive a mother can be about the way she looks, the easier it will be for her daughter to develop a healthy confidence about her body. Also it’s important that girlfriends and moms build self-esteem by shifting the attention from the external to the internal beauty. Often when we greet one another, its easy to comment on how beautiful your girlfriend or daughter looks. But in order to re-address the imbalance in our society of appearance we also need to complement each other’s personalities and leadership traits. Try to make a point of doing this with your daughters by praising them for their grades in school or their caring nature instead of just their pretty pink dresses. Girlfriends, be intentional in building each other up by pointing out the natural gifts and talents you see in each other to boost self-esteem but also encourage the women around you to be real in sharing their struggle with beauty.
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