The Chat: Beauty is in the I
TRACY: Is it called kismet when you get the same message coming at you from different sources?
JEN: Why? What's coming at you?
TRACY: The other day, I read a blog post called "When Your Mother Says She's Fat." A woman wrote about how when she was a child she thought her mom was the most beautiful person in the world. Then, at age seven, she heard her mom say "Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible."
PAM: I read it, too. A daughter learns body image from her mother. Since she saw herself in her mother's image, she thought she would grow up to become those adjectives her mother used.
TRACY: Not even 20 minutes later, my friend Kelly posted one of the new Dove "Real Beauty" videos, in which women described themselves to a sketch artist and then a second person described that same woman to the sketch artist.
JEN: I saw that. The "self" portrait was far less beautiful than the one by the second person.
PAM: I think most women would describe themselves as less attractive than strangers would describe them.
TRACY: I don't mean to be a downer, but something needs to be said about how women view themselves.
JEN: We could spill thousands of words on this topic.
PAM: That was the point of the Dove campaign's social experiment with the forensics artist … that we don't see our own beauty. We've been conditioned to critique, analyze and fix our bodies.
TRACY: I'm trying to raise a beautiful girl and I worry about these images and messages she's taking in as she grows up.
PAM: As long as the media continues to perpetuate sexist images and stereotypes, we can't protect our girls from the negative attitudes, the feelings of inadequacy.
JEN: Do you feel that, as you get older, you are more forgiving of yourself?
TRACY: Honestly, I think this is a gift of cancer survivorship. I forgave my physical shortcomings back then. After having kids, I embraced the miracle of my body and it's been all good ever since.
JEN: I feel like, the more I realize where my inner strengths lie, the less I worry about outer appearance.
TRACY: I believe you can't see your inner strengths if you're worried about the physical laundry list that some women obsess over.
JEN: We're not going to change societal opinions. At least not overnight. So how do we help these girls get to where some of us have managed to get, decades later?
PAM: Girls need strong self-esteem. Society needs to send them the message that they are already okay. They look normal. Did you know that the number one magic wish for girls ages 11 to 17 is to be thinner?
JEN: Society isn't going to do that. Not yet. The people close to them have to set that model — and point out other healthy models: successful, fulfilled people without perfect bodies.
TRACY: It's only fair game to list one good attribute for each 'bad' one. For instance, my legs are goofy. Skinny, knock-kneed and bow-legged. But they get me where I need to be. I love to run, bike and play with the kids. And I will dance 'til the day I die! None of that would happen without my goofy legs.
PAM: Brilliant. When Morgan is a pre-teen, I'll show her the Dove video. We'll talk about it as a clever marketing campaign as well as an uplifting message (they're still trying to sell products). And we'll watch Jean Kilbourne's "Killing Us Softly," which critiques the media's complicity in this body-image craziness. I want her to know that models are airbrushed and Photoshopped as many as 10 times before appearing in ads.
TRACY: The other side of this equation is the boys. Jen, what do you say to your boys about the messages they see about 'perfect women?'
JEN: Well, boys are self-conscious, too. They are not immune to this. But what do I tell my boys about women? I play up brains. I play up personality. Not in generic women, but in the women we know. I talk about how strong, or funny, or kind, or smart they are. I have a T-shirt that I had made years ago. It reads, "Smart Is the New Pretty." I hope those messages reach boys and girls.
TRACY: It just breaks my heart to hear my friends still talking such trash about themselves and we are into our 40s and 50s. Give yourself the gift of letting it go.
PAM: I hope that we all get to a point of realizing that perfection is unattainable, but satisfaction and gratitude are within our reach.
TRACY: For the love of God, growing older is part of the deal! Be healthy and enjoy your beautiful body!