I recently read the book We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In this wonderful, powerful, and quite honestly angry book on the condition of Womanhood in modern society, Adichie touches on the poignant idea that women are trained from girlhood to be ashamed of themselves.
"We teach girls shame. 'Close your legs. Cover yourself.' We make them feel as though by being born female they're already guilty of something."
This quote highlights something that I myself have been aware of for years and never known how to put into words until now - the fact that women, starting at a very young age, are raised to believe that we are not allowed to be proud of our bodies, of our forms, and of our physicality. Beyond that, we are taught that to take pride in how we look is yet another thing to be ashamed of.
Girls with self-image issues are told that they shouldn't ever feel less valuable or less beautiful than any other girl; they are told that we are all beautiful - and that is true. A person's value is in no way attached to how we look, beauty is no measure of worth, and all people are beautiful in whatever way that may be. Yet when a girl does dare to take pride in how she looks and say out loud, "I know I am beautiful," she is automatically assumed to be vain and conceited.
These two messages - that all girls are beautiful, but that no girl can ever admit that she is beautiful - are mutually exclusive. We cannot have both, and yet both are demanded of us. This requirement of simultaneous self-hatred and self-love are written in fine print in the contract we sign as members of Womanhood.
I am sick of it.
I am sick and tired of hearing my fellow women self deprecate their physical attributes and take shame in wearing makeup and wanting to look cute in their clothes. I am sick and tired of hearing them only call themselves attractive, hot, lovely, and worthy of admiration in the most mocking and joking of voices. I am sick and tired of us, as women, not being allowed to admire our own beauty without being ridiculed.
Because the fact of the matter is, I know I am beautiful. I am proud of how I look, and who I am. I have been told too many times by too many people that I am attractive, and smart, and unique. It goes against logic and reason for me to say, "No, I'm not pretty." I would be calling everyone who has ever paid me these compliments a liar, and I would be going against popular consensus and evidence in denying that I am good looking and a wholly, uniquely beautiful woman.
I am proud of how I look, how I dress, the makeup that I wear, and I should not be coerced into shame for that.
I - and all women - should be able to put together an outfit that we like and not be asked, "Who are you all dressed up for?" We should be able to swipe our makeup brushes across our eyelids and cheekbones and make silly faces to see how we look because we like it. We should be able to strike a pose in the mirror and say, "Damn, I look good," without some little voice saying, "Wow, feeling a little narcissistic today?"
We should be able to express ourselves and look good for ourselves, in whatever manner that may be, simply because we want to.
The trend of self-love is on the rise, and we (men and women) are continuously encouraged to believe in ourselves and know that we are all beautiful because we are all beautiful. But until we are also encouraged to express these new beliefs and embrace them as the truths that they are, how can anyone expect us to really believe them? We should be able to express the self-love that we are told to give ourselves. We should be able to know we are beautiful without being ashamed of the pride that we feel.
The truth is, people are beautiful. No conditions or contracts, no obligations or hidden fees. People are beautiful.
There is no shame in believing that.