There is a crystal clear snapshot in my mind of something I observed as a kid. It was a short Disney cartoon on TV, something that played during a break from the featured show. In it, an artist’s hand was seen sketching a woman. When the drawing was complete, she came to life. She looked down, sizing up her voluptuous figure in her pencil skirt before beckoning the artist for his attention. With disdain, she pointed out her curvy behind. The hand skillfully used the pencil eraser to trim down her shape. Satisfied with her new figure, she swerved her hips from side to side.
Decades later, this cartoon image still haunts me. I’ve spent my entire life — from childhood to adulthood — thinking about this character. The scariest part of my daydreamy reflections of this animated woman was the fact that I never wondered why she was unsatisfied. No, even as a child observer, the woman’s initial poor body image seemed like a given. And the worst part? I was jealous. I’m still jealous. Jealous of a cartoon figure that so effortlessly was able to make a complaint about what she deemed as imperfections and have them instantly erased. I think about this every time I look in the mirror and feel dissatisfaction with anything. Couldn’t someone simply erase those bat wings under my arms? That wrinkly belly skin left over from carrying babies could use some retouching. What if those lines in my neck didn’t give my age away?
You see, this cartoon shows up in today’s media in the form of real women. Now we see the image of a woman only after filters or editing programs have touched up anything determined to be a flaw. But the problem is that we never see the artist’s hand at work. So, our perception is that those women really look as unblemished as they appear on an Instagram grid or a Facebook ad or You Tube video. The result is an unrealistic comparison of our own authentic skin and bodies with the immaculate ones that show up on our screens.
Girls, we have got to start recognizing the process behind what we are seeing. Let’s stop idealizing other women and thinking poorly of ourselves. Instead, let’s cheer on the beauties we admire while simultaneously praising our own bodies for what they are capable of whether it’s walking up a set of stairs, winning a local Crossfit competition, birthing people, or running a 5k. Our bodies work hard for us. And regardless of what our behinds look like in our pencil skirts, we need to be proudly shaking our hips with delight.
(This article was recently featured on Sedija Lejiete Brand. Go check out her work to see how she’s making an impact in the lives of women.)