You watch them apply makeup, using brands you’ve either heard of, or own. Makeup brushes that promise to do one thing, or another. You watch them apply makeup and blend it out. Airbrushing. It’s all the same. Foundation. Concealer. Contour. Eye makeup. Eyelashes. Eyeliner. A face. The face. Your face.
Makeup isn’t the problem.
You watch them pose for photos. Straight down, skinny. Thin legs, thin arms, thin faces. Beautiful. Artfully posed. Or they’re curvy, seductive. Perfectly formed. Perfect hair, perfect body. The definition of perfect is incomplete. Inconsistent. Senseless. You like the photo. Move on. Next one. Same thing. Perfect in their own way. Compare them all – they’re all perfect to someone. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them.
Their bodies are not the problem.
You see them document their journeys. They were unhappy. Over or underweight. Tired. Lacking in energy. Now they’re fit, strong, in love with their bodies. In love with life. They’re toned and sun-kissed and happy. They delight in the befores and the afters. Pride shines out of every pore, every smile.
Their happiness is not the problem.
They tag you on Instagram, or follow you on Twitter. ‘Weight loss tips’. ‘Healthy eating guidelines’, masked fads and scams. They’re bots, or automated following services. It’s unintentional. It’s aimed towards you, but not at you, personally. After all, you’re just another internet user. But they’re targeted. They tag you, telling you, your body is not enough. Or your body is too much. Try this tea, it’s laxative filled and will mess up your metabolism, but for a few weeks you’ll look the way we suggested. Try these one weird tips guaranteed to encourage weight loss. Eat dust to build muscle. Chew ice because we said so. We, the faceless cogs in the machine. We said so.
This is the problem.
Those happy with themselves are not the problem. Those who are making a living, as an influencer or model or fitness success story are not the problem. That is body positivity. They turned something negative – or neutral – into a positive. Financial means. That is positivity. It doesn’t matter what you look like. Their successes are not for us to take umbrage to. Their happiness is not a point of vexation. They become the easy targets – the faces, the names, the identifiable spearheads in what is so, so invisible. They are the targets. We claw at their unhappiness with talons laced with our dissatisfaction. The invisible cogs in the invisible wheel, turning, churning, so we take heed of it. So we lash out at those we can see. We lash out at those who, despite it all, refuse to conform.
‘You’re too skinny.’
‘You should eat more.’
‘Have you tried X weightloss diet?’
‘Have you tried exercising?’
‘Don’t eat that. It’s bad for you.’
‘This makeup is supposed to make your face look better’
‘Don’t wear that, it doesn’t suit people over a certain size’
‘Why do they make clothes for fat people?’
‘I can’t believe she’s anorexic, it’s attention seeking’
‘Binge eating disorder is laziness, that’s all.’
‘Body dysmorphia isn’t a real thing, we’re all insecure.’
We’re all insecure because somewhere, somehow, someone targeted us.
Another person’s esteem is not a threat. It is not a transgression. It’s not the problem. Another person’s lack of esteem is the threat. It’s the state which sprouts feelers that grab at you, hit you, hurt you, bruise you. Leaving you purple and blue, and green and yellow, reeling from the attack and not knowing what you did wrong. Making you careful to not feel good. Careful to not say anything nice about yourself. Careful to compare. To avoid arrogance. Vanity. Careful to not be happy. On and on, until that care isn’t necessary. We hate ourselves, and it comes naturally. We hate our bodies. We hate our faces and each individual part which stacks up and up and up to make us human. We forget that we are more than the sum of our parts, because someone, somewhere, helped us erase that memory. We become parts. Individual pieces. Pieces which crumble into invisible ash, scattered back at the beginning of our teens, or on the cusp of adulthood, because someone, somewhere, told us who we were was wrong. Another programme on TV told us sugar was bad, another scathing expose told us not to eat x y and z to avoid wrinkles. Things which target us as individuals. Messages we deliver to ourselves aren’t for other people, and yet these messages, these targeted messages, are broadcast daily and hit us at the back of our throats, making us choke on the nice words. Reach for the bad ones. It reflects in our compliments. Compliment you, insult me. Compliment you, insult me.
‘I wish I was as skinny as you.’
‘I wish my hair was like yours’
‘You’re so good at x. I wish I could be as good at x as you’
‘You have way bigger boobs than me’
‘You look so much stronger than me’
We choke and choke and choke on these messages, suffocating under the weight of something heavy, bad, disenchanting, that targets us daily. I think the problem, the real problem, is that we were never taught to ignore the messages. We were never taught to think of positivity as separate from vanity. We were taught to negatively associate nice thoughts with bad actions. We were taught to fear the girl who gets all the guys because she’s pretty, and we were taught to remember that being attractive on the outside is indicative of being ugly on the inside. We were taught to fear calling ourselves pretty, and to understand that prettiness is subjective and that we cannot like who we are on the outside because it spoils the insides. Yet in our efforts to avoid spoiling the insides, they’re rotting away. They’re meek and sad, willing to accept that they’re not good enough. We’re given a number and the high street stores laugh and laugh as we try to squeeze into lies. Into numbers that meant something else 30 years ago. We cry and despair and avoid, avoid, avoid clothes and shopping and looking because someone said that that was the right thing to do.
We’re cells. We are a collection of cells, roaming the planet. We have created purposes for ourselves to fill out our lifespans. We’ve done something wrong, we’ve done something really wrong, if something invisible is working at making sure that in that lifespan, we are as miserable as possible. When are we waking up? When are we realising that in living in misery, we’re wasting potential? How many hours a day do you find yourself worrying about yourself or your clothes or your appearance or thinking about things you’d do if you could only look a little different? How much time are we wasting? How much time have we wasted?
When are we going to address the real god damn problem?