During a shared walk, a friend of mine mentioned that her son had visited with his new partner the previous evening. They had chatted for a while before the couple left and my friend, much to her horror, recollected that all the while, she had found herself running an internal dialogue about the attributes, physical and otherwise, of the young woman.
My friend was deeply shocked and explained that she had found herself engaging thoughts such as “her chin is a bit saggy”, “her complexion is sallow”, “her hips are bigger than her breasts” and “she is shy”. From there she had jumped to her own physical attributes and had made self-directed and critical comments such as “I’ve never liked the size of my hips, they’ve been the bane of my life”, etc. etc.
From my reaction (“I‘ve done that too!”) it seems as though it has become second-nature for women to size each other up, put each other under the microscope and relentlessly list all the perceived shortcomings. And equally as normal are apparently the cruel self-talk, the devastating self-criticism, the unachievable ideals and the bar that is forever raised higher in the pursuit of more, better, firmer, tauter, younger, fitter, curvier or flatter (depending); the list is endless.
Are women really like that? Are real women like that?
What is a real woman? Or better, what is a true woman?
I was in the company of a great number of true women at a wedding recently; they were everywhere and here is a thumbnail sketch of three of them:
- the bride wasn’t there to outshine or out-glamour any other woman – but truly shiny and glowing she was, just like she usually is;
- the best woman who walked arm in arm with the groom down the aisle was none other than his ex-wife, no less beautiful than the bride in her very own grace, poise and amazing ability to hold others;
- the bridesmaid was sweetness and preciousness herself; assured, steady and ever so tenderly and attentively supportive in her role.
And there wasn’t any perfection in sight – the best woman and the groom walked back to fetch the rings that had been forgotten, no less at ease the second time than when they walked down the aisle the first time.
So what’s the difference between how these women held themselves and the comparison, judgment and petty jealousy described at the beginning?
These women are examples of living the connection to their inner-most, their essence and inner beauty, regardless of outer looks, of facial features or anything other than the sacredness they hold as women inside their body, first and foremost. They know and have claimed the fact that the beauty that shines forth from their eyes comes from within and is not something that can be acquired through money, sweat or competition.
Would it then be true to say that it is the relentless and brutal self-talk, fuelled by and coupled with the cult of perfectionism that make a woman lash out at other women? And before you think you’re off the hook, not saying it out loud is still lashing out as we castigate and chastise ourselves before we do it to another.
And if this is true – is it then not very clear where we need to start? It starts with us and the worthiness we hold ourselves in; it starts on the inside by rediscovering and claiming our sacredness and the responsibility that women carry to get us all out of the brutality of our created images and the obscenity of giving voice to them, whether out loud or silently against ourselves.
By Gabriele Conrad, Goonellabah, NSW, Australia
For further inspiration:
What are the qualities of a true woman? Read Ariana’s experience of uncovering this for herself.
What’s the impact of perfectionism on our daily life, and is there another way?
Who creates the image of women? ‘Is it possible that being a woman means more than what you can do or the skill set that you hold?’