Learn from Smart Women

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Unless you’re one of the lucky few women who set beauty standards, you know what it’s like to live outside of what society deems conventionally attractive or acceptable.  Chances are, you’ve had someone make an unwelcome comment about your appearance – perhaps something about your weight or the way your hair grows from your head.  Maybe you’ve been asked to change the way you look for a job or some family event like a wedding.  Living outside of conventional beauty standards means enduring this constant questioning and learning to field them with as much poise as possible.  It may mean feeling invalidated or inadequate.  It may mean you find yourself feeling envious of women who conform better than you do.  For some women, maybe for you, too, it means time spent in front of the mirror wondering what you can change to better conform.


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At the end of the day, you are what you see in the mirror.  You are no more and no less.   We must accept that and be proud of that if we are going to be successful.  It’s easy to allow yourself to be beaten down by the persistent messages telling you that you’re not enough of some descriptor or another.  It’s easy to allow those messages to become voices within your mind that repeat that you’re not enough of what some ad or some person says you should look like.  That’s no good, as I’m sure you’ve experienced.  This tears down your confidence, and it makes you susceptible to outside influences as you seek to conform.  Few women have made success for themselves while victims of low confidence and not been ruined by the inevitable attacks on their appearance and beauty choices.  Looking up a few articles about any self-assured and successful woman will prove this.  How then, does a woman find the confidence to resist insecurity in the face of widespread beauty standards? 

Gaining confidence, despite being insecure, means accepting some hard truths.  What you see when you look in the mirror is all you are.  You are no more than that.  You are not the last model you saw in an advertisement and you are not some ideal face and figure you hope someday to achieve.  However, you are also no less.  The face and body that you see are yours, and the first step towards being self-secure is being willing to accept and defend them.  You should never have to hide them.  They are what people will see when you present your next big idea.  They are what people will remember when they think of the impact you have had on them and their endeavors, and you must be proud of this.   


The face and body you see are yours, and the first step towards being self-secure is being willing to accept and defend them.


Despite finding pride in your body, you may run into people who erode your self-confidence, knowingly or not.  Sometimes it’s a family member (perhaps even a mother) doing this; other times it’s a coworker or a friend wearing on you.  Digging in your heels and remembering that you represent yourself and all of your achievements and contributions will help you remain strong.  Some of you, however, may run into the unenviable position wherein the offending person is your boss.  Often times, this person may criticize you with claims that you look quote unquote unprofessional. 

Professionalism comes through in the way you address clients and coworkers, the way you handle your work, and the way you dress for a given task.  Whether it’s your hair or your weight or any list of things, this is just a variation of supposedly not being attractive enough for any given situation, rather than a judgment of your work or dedication.  You have a choice to make.  You can act on your boss’ words and change your appearance, or you can ignore your boss and risk any repercussions that may come.  (The third option is to change employment and work in a more welcoming situation, but in this day and age, that extremely hard to just get up and do).  

In whatever choice you make, understand that your beauty and value is in no way connected to your professional appearance.  You are still no less than the woman in the mirror, full of achievements and ideas.  Yes, you may face those who question your decision to stay true to yourself, though they may not recognize your choices as such.   However, you only have an obligation to make the choices that will drive your success.  You owe it to yourself.


Sydney is a student in the Performance Studies major at Northwestern University.  She spends a good amount of time writing short stories and plays.  Learn more about Sydney on her blog Stylistic Fuzzy


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