Friday, November 28, 2014

Still Learnning: My Role in the "Am I Pretty or Ugly?" Trend

Girls are skipping classes on days when they don’t think they look good. Young women are skipping job interviews for the same reason. Girls and young women are posting videos on YouTube entitled "Am I Pretty or Ugly?" and asking strangers to rate their appearance. (If you haven't seen one of these videos, visit YouTube and search "Am I Pretty or Ugly.") Our cultures obsession with appearance and the definition of beauty is preventing our girls and young women from reaching their potential. This is not a new topic and lots of educational programs have been created to help girls and young women learn to value themselves for things other than their physical image. Unfortunately, research shows those efforts aren’t working. And I may be partly to blame.

Last night, one of my sons showed me a Ted Talk entitled "Why You Thinking You're Ugly is Bad for You." In it, Meaghan Ramsey, global director of the Dove Self-Esteem Project, tells an audience that it’s up to adults—all of us—to reprogram girls and young women. Ms. Ramsey says we have to change the way we talk about other people and ourselves. Not only do we have to focus our attention on recognizing personal values and achievements, but we have to stop praising or criticizing the physical appearance of others as well as ours. I encourage you to check out the video...

I don’t mind saying this video was an eye-opener. Like most women of my generation, I have made it a priority to boost the self-esteems of my children and other people’s children—girls and boys—whenever possible. I have focused on praising their minds, values and achievements. In addition, I have tried to be a good role model in life and at work for what I consider the most important virtues—kindness, fairness, loyalty, a love of learning, and trustworthiness. I’ve also tried to teach my two boys not to be judgmental. However, I have never ever censored the little frustrations I have with my appearance when talking to anyone, including young women. And yes, I’m guilty of mentioning my flaws in this blog.

After viewing the Ted Talk and talking to my son, I realize I must change my tune. I mustn’t heap praise on someone with, say, big eyes or a perfect figure, nor bemoan my own shortcomings, such as my aging appearance. Just because big eyes and wrinkles aren’t really important to me, doesn’t mean a conversation about such things won’t be interpreted by others, particularly young women, as important.

And this includes Flattering50. My blog was never intended to be a discussion about beauty, except, perhaps, beautiful clothing. I’m interested in using fashion to create a personal style after 50—clothing that flatters, is comfortable, is energizing and fun.  And when I write about grooming and makeup products (especially those with natural ingredients), I try to write about what feels good, has a healthy effect and/or is just fun to wear. For me, finding personal style is liberating. When a woman knows what looks and feels good on her, she can get dressed and groomed quickly and easily, and spend the rest of her day doing and thinking about important things, like how she can help others and make the world a better place. That said, I intent to be more vigilant in my writing. I plan to stop fueling our culture’s obsession with beauty by bemoaning flaws, especially those related to the aging process.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Holiday Season. Over the next five weeks, many of us will be celebrating the season by getting together with friends and family. My friends and family include many girls and young women—grandchildren, children, girlfriends, and young wives. For me, it’s a perfect opportunity to start being more conscious of the way I talk about appearances—both others and my own. While conversing with young women, I’m going to be careful not to bemoan my aging body. Instead, I'm going to celebrate what's important--people of all ages striving to be better human beings.

I’d like to wish Flattering50 readers a happy and healthy holiday season!