Settling for Perfect

large

Here’s a thought: Why are we so obsessed with being perfect?

How often has someone called you perfect? How often have you come back from a lousy day, caught in the throes of self-worthlessness, and confided in loved ones about what is on your mind? When they hear everything that is bothering you, do they smile at you, give you a big hug, and boldly proclaim “you are perfect!”

The next question I have is: on what occasions are you called perfect?

Does it bother anyone else that the word “perfect” is being flung around with reckless abandon in social settings?

I find that because of the usage of perfection as a descriptor for men and women alike we are doing nothing to help them truly feel better about themselves and feel worthy of praise and acceptance from those around them. Simply put, we are settling for perfect far too often when we know for a fact that we need to hear something more to heal what is at our core.

On the not-so-rare occasion that my self-esteem hits a low point, it is easy to find solace in the arms and ears of friends who are willing to listen to my troubles and doubts and will help try and build me up to get through the next day or week or month. Genuine compliments can be hard to find, and those can be some of the best things to hear on a bad day. What I am opposed to is the nagging insistence of blanket compliments that should mean more than they actually do.

Perfect-435x247

What does someone actually mean when they watch you point out your flaws and insecurities and blurt out, “you are perfect!” ? What are they actually telling you?

“You are perfect.”  It is the shortest way to get someone to stop putting themselves down. It is the all-purpose compliment, supposedly because of its all-encompassing power to rejuvenate the most dejected soul.

There have to be other ways to tell women suffering from insecurity that they are worth so much more than their perceived faults without pulling the “perfection” card. I am not knocking the campaigns that encourage women to love themselves as a whole, but I am criticizing the overusage of a concept that, when lacking sincerity or conviction, I find harmful and unhelpful for coping with self-esteem  and body image issues.

Advertisements

Becoming Beautiful and Finding Love — The Misleading Movie Myth

Everyone get your abstract thinking caps on! It’s time for a game of….COMPARISON! (So sue me, I was not inspired to think of a better name for this little exercise.)

The Question: What do the following movies have in common?

  • Grease.
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary.
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
  • Miss Congeniality.
  • She’s All That.
  • My Fair Lady.
  • Cinderella.

No, they are not all musicals and books — at least I think they aren’t. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if these all ended up as musicals on or off Broadway in the future. If that happens, all of you non-believers should give me a medal.

There are a few  things that all of these movies have in common: A) there is a female protagonist; B) By and large, these movies would be described by the general public as “cute” or “funny”; but the big commonality that I want to focus on is

The Answer: Every single protagonist finds love….after they are transformed or made over to appear more beautiful.

My least favorite transformation: Sandy in Grease

My least favorite transformation: Sandy in Grease

This irks me a little more than I realized. Don’t get me wrong — there is a significant amount of social commentary surrounding the idea that you need to “dress to impress” in order to show your best when meeting anybody. And in many ways, first impressions are pretty important — you simply never know who you will meet on any given day.

The beef that I have with this movie format is that it is so very unrealistic and unreasonable. My head is spinning with the conflicting signals from society — isn’t Mr. Right supposed to accept you for who you are as a person? And yet, judging from our cinematic evidence, you need to be able to identify your lack of beauty and do something about it to capture Mr. Right once and for all. Also, these makeovers have perpetuated the unreasonable expectation that the guy will be completely stunned the moment they see the “new you” and will work even harder to win you over.

Stunned man looking at "new" woman in She's All That

Stunned man looking at “new” woman in She’s All That

Which one is it? I’m inclined to support the former, but it seems to me that the rest of the entertainment industry has yet to hop onto this band wagon with any gusto. Growing up,  I was convinced that I would have to have some monumental change in my appearance to find the right person for me. It simply wasn’t enough to be myself; there had to be some sudden transformation that changed me from less-than-desirable to happy-ever-after-able.

big fat greek wedding

Granted, the movie is hilarious, but the trend remains the same.

The intent may not be nearly as deep as it appears because these are happy endings! They fall in love! Romance fills the air so sweetly! However, the fact still remains that the women in these roles are deemed unfavorable for little more than their physical appearance. If women were changing their appearance for every potential love interest in the real world, life would be an absolute circus, and it would be nearly impossible to tell where their personal preferences began and their predatory man-prowling body ended.

Not my idea of a simple spa day...

Not my idea of a simple spa day…poor Miss Congeniality

No one person should dictate what a woman must do to be “beautiful” except herself. It is so easy to search for approval in the eyes of those one admires, but it should never require a team of makeup artists. Personally, if that is what it takes to make someone fall head-over-heels for me, I would keep on looking.

How One Man Proved MY Point

I know, I know. “Why didn’t you post anything different last week? Was it something I said? Are we on a break?”

(In reponse to the last question, no, we were not on a break. Don’t go sleeping around with other blogs, now!)

There were two very good reasons that I have taken this long to post something. The first one is that I had two exams back to back this week and was cramming my cranium with every ounce of organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology possible. If you have any questions on the respiratory system or enantiomers, I totally have you covered.

The second slightly more relevant reason is that I had a topic of discussion about which I had no words. Well, that’s actually a lie. I had many words, but none of them were altogether coherent or appropriate for normal conversation. I think I have moved past the seething-with-frustration and now am sitting comfortably in active-discussion mode.

A man by the name of Matt Forney posted an article on his eponymous blog site entitled “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem”. Among many, many, many other things, Mr. Forney makes many bold statements about women and their “disillusioned belief” that they need self-esteem, and that the world would be a better place if women accepted their place in society as beings that want to be dominated and want to have their self-esteem wounded by men.

Mr. Forney's ideal woman -- who really needs self-esteem anyway?

Mr. Forney’s ideal woman — who really needs self-esteem anyway?

The response article is not much better. Basically, he claims that the responses he has received from the online community have proved his point because “confident and self-assured people don’t get rattled by blog posts”. All of the people that disagreed with him so violently are merely showing that nearly all women are clinical narcissists.

My response to this is simply No. No, Mr. Forney, we have not proven your point. You have simply proven mine. And I thank you for your efforts to move American thought forward, or backwards, or whatever direction you were intending when you published this digital gem.

The key here is that Mr. Forney and his perspective of women, their bodies, and how they perceive themselves places all of the blame and expectation on women. Apparently our egos are inflated from “propaganda that artificially boosts [our] self-esteem”. Just which types of “propaganda” do you find out there, Mr. Forney? The completely realistic fashion models and perfect bodies of media fame? I know I feel so much better about my self-esteem when the media is glorifying body types that are unrealistic or unhealthy.

The internet's perception of a perfect woman that is sadly half true. Proven by Mr. Forney.

The internet’s perception of a perfect woman that is sadly half true. Proven by Mr. Forney.

Nothing that the majority of women have accomplished counts, in his book — a college degree, a career, nothing is a worthy achievement in this, the man’s world. He neglects to realize that his original argument lies in the environment that women are exposed to their whole lives. Ignoring the hot, steaming pile of double standards, his central argument lies in the concept of women returning to a sense of “natural femininity”.

“Insecurity is the natural state of woman”. WHAT? There is a very distinct reason that explains why this is assumed by men like Mr. Forney.  And that reason happens to be that it is influenced heavily by dominant social beliefs, specifically male dominant social beliefs. I would hazard a guess and say that Mr. Forney would agree with this, seeing as he expects women to fit into his aforementioned “man’s world”.  That is precisely why it is considered natural — because the people who are making the claims at all fit into this dominant category of thinking. Frankly, I can’t understand how anyone tries to define natural femininity, especially someone who does not have the credentials for such a venture.

Mr. Forney finished his reply blog post saying that nothing is going to stop him from speaking “the truth.” While I have established that one’s definition of truth is very different from another’s, in a way he is right. The “truth”, however, is that what he writes and supports is exactly what makes female self-esteem so improbable.  The ideology that he presents, while it may sound extreme, casts a shadow over many areas of society. It is extreme in its delivery and concentration, but ultimately this is a return to a philosophy that we thought was far behind us.

So I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, Mr. Forney. Have a good day.