Tina Fey said it best in her book, ‘Bossy Pants’:
“But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty.
Girls wanted butts now.
Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them.
And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired.
And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.
Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you.
All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful.
Now 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.”
And so, as I read this, I do the mental check (as I am sure every other woman out there does the same).
1) Caucasian blue eyes: Half check -my eyes are a blue-green. (1/2)
2) Full Spanish Lips: Uhmm… semi-check. I have lips – isn’t that enough?? (1/4)
3) Classic button nose: Half check I suppose. (1/2)
4) Hairless Asian skin: …only after some waxing efforts. (0)
5) Californian tan: WAHAHAHAHA! I wish. (0)
6) Jamaican dance hall booty: Uhm… well I do squats. So guess I have a little somethin’ going on there… (3/4)
7) Long Swedish legs: PFFFFFF. I’m 5’2. That says it all. (0)
8) Small Japanese feet: I’m 5’2…. So YES!!!! (1)
9) Abs of lesbian gym owner: What a joke. (0)
10) Hips of 9 year old boy: Maybe if X2. (0)
11) Arms of Michelle Obama: I have never studied her arms. But I’m guessing not. (0)
12) Doll tits: Well, mine aren’t plastic. So, no. (0)
3 out of a potential 12.
Interpretation: 3/12 = not beautiful enough.
I first read this quote about two years ago. I howled with laughter as I read it -because it’s so true.
And while it may not be the absolute truth, it is very much the universal ‘truth’ that we as women have created and come to recognize as the standard for beauty.
This ‘truth’ has both intrigued and haunted me for years. I’ve travelled around the world and met women from every continent, and every woman I have met– no matter how attractive she is – is battling the same battle and asking the same question: “Am I beautiful?”
I’ve met girls from India who bleach their skin to be lighter. Their mothers tell them: “You will never find a man to marry you if you are too dark.”
I’ve met girls from South Korea who have their eyes made bigger, their jawlines shaved, and bridges put in their noses. The competition to be ‘the most beautiful’ in Korea is so fierce that plastic surgery is a common Sweet 16th gift from parents to their daughters.
I’ve met girls in bathrooms throwing up their food in an attempt to lose weight.
I’ve met women who have had breast implants, butt implants, lypo suction, face lifts, botox, tummy-tucks, knee implants, plastic surgery on their legs, spray tans, and more…
Now, I’m not judging. In fact, these options are very tempting (I even went for a spray tan once… DISASTER) and I understand why we go to these extremes. But because I wanted to get to the bottom of why we feel the need to do this to ourselves, I’ve asked every one of them (and myself):
Them: “Because it (that part of their body) needed to be fixed.”
Me: “Why did it need to be fixed?”
Them: “Because it wasn’t beautiful.”
Me: “Why do you need to feel beautiful?”
Them: “Because I want to feel confident and secure in myself.”
Me: “Why do you need to feel confident and secure?”
Them: “To be happy.”
Me: “How will that make you happy?”
Them: “Because people will like/love me.”
Me: “Which people?”
Them: *insert name/gender pronoun of person they are attracted to*
***(simplified conversation sample)
To be loved.
Loved by a significant other.
So THAT is what our need to be beautiful comes down to: To to be ‘good enough’ for love.
Intrigued, I set out to find out FROM MEN (because I personally am attracted to men) what they consider to be PHYSICALLY beautiful. I asked them informally during conversations, I conducted surveys, and I asked on social media.
I asked single men, married men, young men, old men, straight men, gay men, and men from various religious and cultural backgrounds – from all over the world.
THE RESULTS SHOCKED ME.
In my surveys, conversations and questions on social media, I asked men to specifically describe the particular features they found most attractive in women. I asked them if they had preferred ‘types’ when it came to women’s looks (and if so, then what those types were) and I asked them to assess various figures, body and facial features, and weight.
Here is a sample of one of the questions I asked in the survey:
Question 9: Which body type/s do you find MOST attractive: (you may pick as many as you like)
- The hourglass figure. (Big breasts, small waist, large butt and hips) Eg: Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansen
- A schoolboy figure. (petite, small breasts, ‘long’ torso, small butt and hips) Eg: Twiggy, Kate Moss
- The pear shape (small breasts, small waist, large hips and butt) Eg: Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian
- The upside down pear. (large breasts, small butt and hips) Eg: Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta Jones, Kate Upton, Catherine Heigl
- The ‘normal’ (average sized everything) Eg: Britney Spears, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Hayek
- The athletic frame (tall, lean, broad shoulders, small hips) Eg: Jessica Biel, Cameron Diaz, Kate Middleton
- I do not have a preference.
Guess which was the most popular answer?
Number 7: I do not have a preference.
Men showed no collective interest or preference for any one body type. While some had their personal preferences for certain body types, I found that NO ONE of the body types was the most popular or unpopular.
Next, I gave them this picture and asked which body/bodies would be ‘undateable’.
The collective answer: NONE.
And interestingly enough, most of the men rated images 2, 3, 4 and 5 as most attractive.
They also were not concerned with particular features. I asked about eyes, noses, lips, skin, hair, legs, butts, thighs… you name it, I asked it.
The most common answers? “N/A”, “no preference” or “I’ve never thought about it.”
I discovered through their answers that men not only are NOT as critical and picky in terms of physical appearance as we think they are, but that they do not notice or care about half the things we stress or beat ourselves up about. IN FACT: Most of them could hardly tell the difference between women who were a size 10 and a size 4 – except to say whether they looked healthy or not.
I asked them if they had ever wanted to change something physical about a girlfriend/wife/love interest’s appearance. They all answered ‘no’.
Almost all of them commented under this question that they had never noticed any physical ‘flaws’ in the women they had been interested in –UNLESS the woman herself made him aware of something she didn’t like about her body by constantly complaining about it.
Finally, I asked each of them to ‘describe a beautiful woman’ and ‘describe the kind of woman you would want to marry’. Surprisingly enough, for each of these open questions, the answers among most of the men were the same:
Almost all of them stated that a beautiful woman is “someone who takes care of herself and embraces her own unique beauty.”
And almost all of them noted that the kind of woman they would want to marry would be “someone who loves herself.”
Let us as women – all women – take a moment to reflect on that:
A beautiful woman is someone who takes care of herself by embracing her own unique beauty, and who LOVES HERSELF.
I conveyed these findings to a dear friend the other day – a woman who, at age 75, has a ‘perfect figure’, a cute brown pixie-cut hairstyle, and the most exquisite green eyes I have ever seen. She could not be more beautiful in my opinion.
She began to cry.
She wept – because for the first time in her life she recognized that her beauty was enough.
I hope it doesn’t take you 75 years to grasp the truth about yourself.
Because the TRUTH is:
It doesn’t matter if you have boy hips or hips the size of Jupiter.
It doesn’t matter if you are tanned, as white as a sheet, or as dark as dark chocolate.
It doesn’t matter if you have blue eyes or brown eyes.
It doesn’t matter if you have a Kim Kardashian ass or no butt to speak of at all.
It doesn’t matter if you have the abs of a lesbian gym owner or if you are wearing that pudding from last night on your stomach (and I hope you ENJOYED IT!).
It doesn’t matter if your tits are so big that you can’t see your own feet, or so small that you need a microscope to see them.
It doesn’t matter if you have long Swedish legs or short “climbers legs” (as so eloquently put in Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason).
It doesn’t matter if you have a thigh gap or ‘leg meat’.
It doesn’t matter what nose you have, how big your lips or eyes or feet are, or what your arms look like (flying squirrel arms… come on!).
IT DOESN’T MATTER.
Because, in short, you are a woman.
And as a woman, when you let go of your insecurities and embrace your own beauty completely, you have power.
“Liz: Lemme ask you a question, in all the years you’ve ever undressed for a gentleman–
Sofi: –it hasn’t been that many.
Liz: Alright. Has he ever asked you to leave? Has he ever walked out, left?
Liz: Because he doesn’t care. He’s in a room with a naked girl. He’s won the lottery.”
–Eat, Pray, Love
And THAT is the very simple and very powerful truth.
Beauty is not about you being physically perfect, it’s about you loving yourself and OWNING what you have!
“ To start telling people that you’re beautiful, or just feel beautiful, just start acting like you are the most beautiful woman in the world… And it really improves everything! Because your sort of psyche responds to it – like this is truthful!”
Of the many men I have ever spoken to, ALL of them have agreed that the most attractive women are the ones who are comfortable in their own skin, are confident in themselves and their beauty, and who embrace their own uniqueness.
I’ve sat for hours listening to men describe and give examples of ‘beautiful women’.
And you know what? Every example has been different.
Men have often described women to me who I did not think were particularly beautiful because of my preconceived ideas of beauty. But yet, these guys consider them to be absolutely beautiful.
I found that there is ONE thing that all of these women have in common:
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
You see, we have been told a lie that has been passed down from generation to generation. That lie is this:
That in order to be LOVED you must be beautiful: and that BEAUTY only looks like what is being modeled before us in the media.
The greater TRUTH however, is that you must first LOVE YOURSELF and not depend on a man or anyone else for that validation. And when you love and embrace yourself, then your own unique beauty has a chance to shine through.
It’s not the women who are physically perfect who are considered the most beautiful and irresistible.
It’s the women who have learned to embrace themselves, take care of themselves and LOVE THEMSELVES.
It’s the women who have learned how to truly relish life and LIVE who have a radiance about them that is IRRESISTIBLE.
As an end note, I asked some of the men “What’s the one thing you wish you could tell women about beauty?”
What they said confirmed my suspicions yet once again.
These were their responses:
“I would say go easy on yourself. In my experience many women are their own worst critics when it comes to their appearance. Most guys won’t pick up on your split ends or less than perfect bone structure in a million years. A girl that believes in herself is really attractive. Also on a more superficial level, don’t believe the media-projected images of women’s beauty. I think every guy likes something different when it comes to physical appearance. I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter how far from ‘normal’ you are, you’ll be somebody’s perfect.”
“Love yourself enough to be yourself.”
-Jason, South Africa
“Learn how to be comfortable with who you are first, and find happiness on your own before you try to find happiness in a man. Of course, take good care of your body, health, the way you dress, and the way you treat others. But learn how to find happiness in God first.”
“Believing you’re a queen makes you beautiful, both physically and otherwise. Ladies that think highly of themselves (not in an arrogant way) are actually more physically beautiful to me.”
“Beauty is mostly personality based… so it comes from her mind and heart.”
-Lee, South Africa
“Believe in yourself and don´t overestimate (the value of) beauty, because it will blind you for the important things.”
“Sapiosexual.” (intelligence is beautiful)
-Jean, South Africa
“Smart girls read. Beauty emanates from the inside out.”
“That it is more than being physically attractive. Beauty is who you are, what you believe in, your values and most importantly your confidence and acceptance in yourself for who you are.”
“Every woman has something about her that is beautiful.”
-Kelly, South Africa
“The smallest detail can make a world of difference. Beauty is not only on the outside, nor is it only on the inside. You really need work on, and combine both to show the world the perfect version of you. People will love you for it, and you’ll feel good about yourself. And remember, if you’re in a tough situation, as long as your hair is amazing you can fake the rest. Be sure to always have a good quality hair dryer and straightener (just be sure to heat-protect those locks!).”
– Julien, The Netherlands
“To learn to love themselves and accept themselves by treating themselves with respect and looking after their health and fitness.”
-Grant, South Africa
“It comes naturally to you.”
“Physical beauty is achieved through dedication and education, any lifestyle choices should be made for no other reason than self-improvement.”
“Confidence and self love is beauty”
-Sam, South Africa
“(Beauty) is reflecting the character of Christ. Physical beauty – that’s great, sure.”
“Beauty is ineffiable.”
-Matt, South Africa
“It’s not about make-up. It’s not about how much skin you’re showing or how short your skirts are or how tight your tops are. It’s about how you look after yourself, how you carry yourself as a woman, and it all starts with the way you see yourself.”
-Ashwin, South Africa
“Don’t let your identity get wrapped up in your beauty. Yes, you are beautiful, but don’t let it become who you are, and don’t let people objectify you. You are more valuable than your beauty.
Confidence, not vanity, really make you shine. Imperfections make your beauty more memorable.”
I hope you are seeing the pattern here:
Beauty is: loving yourself.
It looks like: taking care of yourself.
It has an attitude of: Confidence in your own uniqueness rather than vanity/arrogance.
Doing the research for this article has changed my life. It has set me free from all the lies I was believing about myself and my own beauty that were crippling me and keeping me from truly LIVING.
My hope is that, by reading this, you too will be set free.
Because GIRL (or guy)… it’s time to let go of your insecurities.
It’s time to embrace yourself, love yourself and your life, just go for it and LIVE!
**** DISCLAIMER: This post is NOT about finding your validation or sense of worth in men – or anyone else for that matter. It is all about realizing that YOU as you are are good enough! YOU are beautiful. And only YOU can love yourself and take care of yourself in a way that will make you truly believe it. So… OWN IT!
RELATED: How to be Confident (Without Faking)
If you enjoyed this, you should read 14 DAYS OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN which is the action plan written in response to this article.
Two projects that were sent to me and that really caught my eye were these two:
You should take a look:
A special thanks to everyone – men and women – for participating in my surveys, social media questions, and conversations.
Thank you for being raw, vulnerable and honest with me.
You all are AMAZING!!