While standing in front of a mirror, in a wedding dress with a zipper that wouldn’t close, I felt the weight of weddings. This is the ugly side of getting ready for what is supposed to be the prettiest day. Yes, this is personal but I’m not alone…
Many women have had similar experiences. It seems that, if a woman falls short of a certain standard of beauty, it’s as though she loses value.
You only had to have followed the nasty articles and tweets about Renee Zellweger’s appearance, when she stepped out at ELLE’s 21st annual Women In Hollywood Awards last year, to know that people feel the right to publicly pass judgement on a woman based solely on her looks.
When did that become okay?
In The Spotlight & On The Scale
When it comes to weddings, everyone is looking at the bride. The pressure is undeniable. In fact, eating disorders have become so common among stressed brides-to-be that it’s been dubbed “brideorexia” and pre-nuptial plastic surgery is called “bridalplasty.”
I’d like to say that none of this affected me but, about six months before my wedding I struggled to fit into my dress (despite gyming for at least 45 minutes four to five times a week) and was more than a little anxious about it. I wanted to slim down (without turning into someone who talks about carbs) but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I even had a nightmare about looking fat in my dress. How crazy stupid is that?!
I managed to lose a little weight by cutting down on dessert – my weakness – and my Mr and I started walking and running (I walked as fast as I can and my Mr jogged slow enough that I could keep up). A few times a week I followed a quick weights/interval exercise DVD and every so often I did a Callanetics workout. I didn’t get skinny. Skinny is not natural for my curvy/pear-shaped body type but, my dressed fitted on the day.
But, just when things are looking good, things change.
While I wanted to retain my slimmer figure, increased demands on my time made it difficult. So, when friends suggested a group “cherish the dress” shoot, my initial excitement was soon followed by mild terror. I was so stressed about fitting back into my wedding dress so, when one friend pulled out, I felt like I had permission to call it quits too. It was a weight off my shoulders.
But, I still haven’t parted with my dress because I’ve always wanted to wear it (and have photos taken) one more time.
So what’s stopping me?
I Don’t Feel Pretty Enough
There I said it!
Recently, an online blogging group member looked at my wedding and told me that I’m beautiful. I said “thanks” but, instead of feeling good, it made me feel sad because I don’t feel as pretty now as I did then. I feel like I’m sliding down the hill and my youthful beauty is falling away on route. It’s hard to feel pretty, and mature as a woman, in a world which holds super-skinny teenage girls up as the standard for female beauty.
So I’m Letting Go
I’ve decided to let go of the unrealistic ideals. It’s hard work (even writing this has pushed me out of my comfort zone) because these lies about what a woman should be are everywhere – on TV, online, in the clothing stores and in our magazines. Most of those lies have the same core message – You are only as good as you look.
Meaghan Ramsey, of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, sums the alarming effects of poor body image, particularly on teenage girls, in her eye-opening TEDTalk. Watch it here…
I don’t know exactly how to escape the insanity of our beauty obsessed society. I wish there was a map. What I do know is that I’m not going to stop looking after myself in a way that makes me feel healthy, strong and proud to be a woman – I’ve simply decided that I want to be better than I look.
I hope you’ll join me. After all, we have talents, smarts and big hearts so why should beauty be the only thing that defines us?
Photo by Monique for Oh Darling Days. Read more Behind The Blog posts