It is the ultimate question – the ultimate struggle for every woman. One that just about every girl has wrestled with, or is currently plagued by. In fact, it would be difficult to find any girl especially in this generation who has not at some point or another stared themselves in the mirror and asked this question. It can play on their minds and stalk them endlessly as a hawk patiently, and resiliently stalks a mother hen herding her vulnerable chicks. Few girls would admit it though, and rightly so, else they be viewed as inferior or lacking in confidence. Am I beautiful enough? Am I sexy enough? Am I desirable enough? In some cases these nagging worries are in relation to a particular person, who may not have shown them or who is not showing them the level of perceived love or attention they might feel they deserve. In other cases, they stem from previous heart-breaking experiences. They might be a product of unkind words by friends, classmates, siblings, relatives, even parents or neighbors, who can best be described as bullies or downright insensitive. Words, they can stick to the mind like a scared child clings stubbornly to his/her mother. It is easy to point out these visible factors that can eat away at a girl’s perception of beauty in relation to herself, but what is not easy to point out though is the main contributor to this trend. It is the real quiet stalker that stands bold in the street corner. It assumes a comfortable spot on the supermarket shelf, has unrestricted right to the computer screen, and has for years maintained a stranglehold on the television screen.
Yes, it is what you are thinking of; advertisements. They continue to bombard both men and women unrelentlessly, with what has become the gold standard for beauty – slender, sleek, flat-stomached, and thick-lipped, with just specific amounts of curves here and there, in reflection of the attributes of a certain popular actress, musician, or another. The human brain if left unchecked can function like a computer. If information of a particular type flows in a particular channel repeatedly, it blazes a trail wide enough to allow this army of information to reign supreme in our subconscious. It dominates our thought pattern, slowly but surely, and shapes our perception of a certain concept, say beauty for instance. Without thinking of it, we accept a definition of beauty gently forced upon us by both the print and electronic media. Never has the human race been influenced more by these agents (the media) as today, with the internet in our pockets, and the large flat screen television poking out of the wall of our living rooms. Not to mention the desk- and laptops starring back at us with images of slender girls – supposedly beautiful girls. They shout without speaking a word sometimes, telling us that these indeed are the standards by which beauty can be measured. Boys go to work when they come of age measuring beauty by standards that overlook the big picture…the whole dimensions of a beautiful woman. Girls on the other hand, suffer mini heart attacks when a small layer of flesh appears in some areas of their body.
Cases of anorexia have increased significantly over the last fifteen years as girls particularly in the western world strive to meet these standards of beauty. Men divorce the wives who stood by them through thick and thin, just to replace what they arrogantly term worn-out baggage with a slender beauty that is more presentable in certain quarters of society. Good old manners, sound personality, kindness, thoughtfulness, maturity, strength of character, honesty and many more attributes that in conjunction with the outer qualities, make up true beauty are being fast considered irrelevant – old school. In some cases, these qualities may supersede the superficial looks on the body that may have little roots to the actual make up of a girl’s personality. An incredibly beautiful, plump girl with an amazing personality may look at the cover girl of a popular magazine and declare herself not beautiful enough. She goes to every length to chip away every ounce of her God-given beauty. Some girls look at their lips and wish they had Angelina Jolie’s. I am not expert in matters like this, so everyone makes their own judgment in the end. However, it has to be said that exercise, dieting, healthy living, and other measures aimed at staying healthy and cutting back on excess weight are definitely encouraging, and where necessary should be vigorously pursued. Obsessive attempts at these however, especially where in reality they girl in question is simply beautiful as she is, are a different story altogether. Worse, disregard of one’s true beauty because they do not strictly meet the standards on the front page of a magazine or are not similar to the smiling girl on the TV screen, whose life may have nothing whatsoever in reality to smile about is saddening. The pressures that the 21st century woman is made to experience, in some cases self-inflicted are enormous and largely flawed.
I recall a girl who wanted to be skinny by all means, even though her plum physique was impeccably beautiful. She went to every length to shed every bit of flesh on her bones. Knowing her wife’s sensitivity to the topic, the husband refused to oppose her drive. In the end, he wished so badly he would have her old wife back. She was heart-broken when one day, he finally opened up that he preferred her plump and not skinny. Sometimes, that which a girl considers unlikeable about herself is what her man finds unbelievably attractive. The Bible said right I guess, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So, to allow the print and electronic media and the fashion and cosmetic firms behind them define beauty for us all is painfully negligent of the diversity of human preferences. Some boys fail to show their girlfriends to their families or friends, because they already know their views about beauty and she probably does not fit them…but she fits his. Some boys will even ditch their woman because someone said she was too this, or too that! Because she did not have enough of this, or enough that! Beauty is no longer a concept to which they can help define in reflection of our diverse preferences. It is a concept that is handed down to them, and they have to accept it as it is.
As a woman, you have the right to love and accept yourself in a healthy way. That, in itself is attractive. To be comfortable in your own skin; to accept yourself, and where necessary work at improving yourself, using ‘necessity’ and not the image of some ‘skinny girl’ as a yardstick to measure your progress is your right and privilege. Indeed, some guy somewhere will fall head-over-heels in love with you anyway. I cannot help but mention that some guys have accepted these standards religiously, and they may not appreciate your beauty because you are not the cover girl of some magazine, even though you are smashingly beautiful in your own way! And amazingly beautiful inside, and fun to be around. Brush such guys off your mind and carry on with your life. It would be misleading and hurting to consider your brand of beauty inferior to their accepted definition of how you should look. Again, some other guy would sell his house just to spend a day with, how much more to have you fully in their lives. I heard of a girl who by current standards, albeit lopsided would not be considered beautiful. Thankfully, she was not the type to see and judge herself through the eyes of society. She walked boldly and tall (even though she was not tall physically). When she picked her steps, you’d think she was royalty. Courageously enough, she’d would look at herelf in the mirror in the morning and say to herself, “girl you look beautiful today.” Some other days she’d eve say to herself, “girl, some days you look beautiful, today, you look exceptionally beautiful.” Needless to mention that she attracted the type of man she desired into her life and prior to that, men were falling all over just to get her attention. She was not arrogant. She was humble, and plain confident. She was simple, but she refused to define herself according to society’s rule books. She made her own rules and defined her beauty on her own terms. Ask any man, if they are honest, they’d tell you how attractive they find such girls – remember, they are not your everyday cover girl on the outside, but they are much more than that on the inside.
To think that guys are immune to this issue would mean side-stepping the truth. Men are becoming increasingly addicted to images of themselves with bulging and flexing muscles, broad chests, and a ‘six-pack’ abdomen. Don’t the female folk like that? Oh yes! They certainly do, and that has fueled the drive of the mass media to attempt to convince the wider society that without those, handsomeness is lacking in man’s tool kit. Take a trip to the gym, and you’d see the male ego at work. Just about every guy stares at himself in the mirror every few minutes if not seconds with sheer satisfaction. He admires his handiwork – his work of art. He flexes his well-sculpted muscles after months of intense work out as he leaves the gym, and swears to have no mercy on the ladies. Once, a guy looked at himself and declared absolute war on girls. He recalled how he had been ill-treated, dumped and looked down upon by numerous girls for his once, poor looks and lack of manliness – a well-built body. “Now, it is my turn to pay them back,” he announced with pitiful arrogance. Take a look at any of the numerous music talent shows on television, and you’d see how girls go crazy when a handsome guy comes on stage. To drive this home, when P square is performing, we all know the reaction the twins elicit in girls especially when their ‘six-packs’ are revealed. I know a very good guy who would cross the ocean for a girl he loved. Let’s say, he was not built like Peter and Paul (P Square), and despite his sincere and far-reaching efforts to win her heart, he was snubbed with annoying and gut-wrenching speed by this girl every time he tried. Of course she was not obligated to like or date him. Wait though till you hear the reason she would have nothing to do with him. “He does not have a ‘six-pack’ abdomen,” she told her friend as if that was the finest virtue on earth. His loyalty, love, integrity and reliability were flung through the window. We can only hope he does not come back someday with venom to extract a pound of flesh from girls – when he must have built himself up for the kill.
I have to mention a caveat though. I have a feeling some folks after reading this piece would go home and declare to their spouse that an article they read today on Lagos Convo says they are fine the way they are. That is true only if there exists absolutely no ‘necessity’ for you to tune up, or touch up here or there. There is nothing wrong with wanting one’s man or woman to look in a certain way. In every relationship, it is critical to continue to stoke the fire, to keep the flames of love alive. As we all get older, our bodies play games on us, and biochemically, we retain food more than back in the day when our young bodies burned everything we threw at it. This is due to low metabolic rate. Leave the science aside, the bottom line is, stretching here and there, taking a walk more often, and maybe hitting the gym will help you look and stay young at heart. If one begins to see signs of overweight, nip it in the bud with serious dieting and work out. However, this does not and should not in my opinion amount to a devaluation of the person because they stacked up some weight. However, we must stay proactive to look great for our mates. If a guy has ‘one giant pack’ also known as potbelly or beer belly in place of six pack, it might help to cut back on the beer and tune up with some work out. Research has shown that both men and women tend to let their bodies go awfully down south after marriage. They fail to take good care of themselves under the impression that it is no longer necessary. “I am married already, so why bother,” they tend to rationalize. Sadly, being married does not overrule the need to look sharp and appealing to one’s mate.
Having said that, I am of the opinion that we must have a balanced view of beauty and handsomeness. Beauty and handsomeness start from within, and when one feels beautiful on the inside, it is like a lantern; you cannot light it and hide it. This is particularly true for women. Naturally, a woman has a need and rightly so to feel beautiful. Often when she sees herself as such, everyone else tends to. On the opposite, when she feels that she falls short of the attributes of a model, she disregards her numerous qualities that can be elegantly appealing and adorably beautiful. By so doing, she lets her beauty fade as she chases society’s definition of beauty, which like a fleeting glow fades faster than morning flower. Beauty has many faces. If you see yourself as beautiful, you might as well be beautiful and vice versa. No matter what anybody says, it is your duty to affirm your rare and unique qualities, as well as your adorable looks. Embrace them with a smile and the world around you might as well follow suit.
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