By Arden Edelcup (aka: “The Beauty Babe”)
“Cherish forever what makes you unique, because you are really a yawn if it goes.” — Bette Midler
My all-time favorite hobby involves the critical inspection of my face under the unforgiving light of my 7x magnification mirror. I am so absorbed in this daily ritual that I literally lose track of time in the maniacal pursuit of plucking and squeezing all that I find offensive and disgusting. The list of these beauty offenders includes, but is not limited to: pimples, wrinkles, hairs of various colors, giant pores and errant brow hairs. I now have proof that I am not alone in this masochistic ritual after watching the recent controversial video entitled, “Dove Real Beauty Sketches.”
This mesmerizing 7-minute video has over 13 million views and is stirring up a heated debate across the country on the subject of women and beauty. It features FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora who was given the task of creating two composite sketches of seven women of various ethnic backgrounds and ages. He did the first sketch of each woman based on her own description of her facial features. As expected, the women used phrases like: “My Mom told me I had a big jaw.” … “I kind of have a fat, rounder face.” … “I’d say I have a pretty big forehead.” He then did a second sketch of this same woman, but based it on the description of another participant who spent the entire day with the woman.
Upon revealing the two sketches side by side, each woman is brought to tears at the vast discrepancy between her own harsh and inaccurate description of herself, and the more “beautiful” sketch that was based on someone else’s more realistic assessment of her appearance.
The second sketch was not only physically more accurate, but also a younger, thinner and more beautiful depiction of each woman.
One of the women commented after viewing her sketches: “Beauty affects the jobs we have, the friends we make and … is critical to our happiness. I have a lot of work to do.”
I watched the commercial several times, and was not shocked that women see their own reflection with a cracked mirror that distorts reality.
Watching this distortion reveal itself in such raw honesty, left me with the feeling that not only is our self-worth immersed with our “perceived beauty” but that sadly this perception is steeped in lies.
Is it possible that my issue is NOT my unforgiving mirror but rather, the emotional power it has over me? No one in the world views me through a magnified lens — so why do I?
Like it or not, beauty is relevant and powerful and that has been a truism since cavewomen roamed the earth. It also transcends all cultures and races. While we would all love to live in a world where the definition of beautiful is broadly defined to include all physical imperfections — it is not the world we live in.
Unfortunately, we “cannot” redefine our cultural and societal definition of beauty. Yet, what the Dove commercial brilliantly reveals is that we CAN control the distortion with which we view ourselves as it relates to beauty.
I can still hear the echo of my own mother’s exasperated attempt to calm me down while I cried over a mountainous pimple. “You are the only one who sees this!!!!” To make her point, she would always enlist various family members to nod their heads in rigorous agreement. At 13 years old, I was thoroughly convinced that my family was conspiring to lie to me not only about my hideous pimple, but also my entire awkward, unsightly appearance. However, a few weeks ago, my sister and I started sifting through old teenage photos. Remarkably, we agreed in disbelief that we were actually sort of cute in our tube socks, track shorts and puffy ’80s hairstyle.
Is it possible that “maybe” my Mom was right all along?
The true power of this Dove commercial is that it challenges women to face their own issues. For many of us, it is the opportunity to reflect back on our own lives (and old photos) and begin to challenge our own perceived “truths” for what they are, distortions and lies that we have brainwashed ourselves into believing.
Like everything in life, change begins with the tiniest of baby steps. Let’s start by entertaining the possibility that “perhaps” that newly acquired forehead wrinkle is barely visible to the naked eye. When your friend or spouse tells you that you don’t need to cut thick bangs to cover it or inject it with thousand dollar fillers, let’s resist the urge to argue with them. Or maybe we should remember that our daughters will “inherit” our scathing self-delusions if we don’t work to change them now.
Lamenting about the unjustness of a beauty-obsessed world, denies us the opportunity to make the little changes in our own lives. I suggest that we begin by finding those “cracked” mirrors in our lives and begin to replace them with newer ones that are closer to the true reflection of who we are.
BEAUTY BABE’s Reality Check for Beginners:
I, too, took my first tentative baby steps on the road to Beauty Enlightenment. I began to unpack that heavy baggage I have been schlepping around filled with useless lies and exaggerations. Join me as I embark on the challenging journey one tiny step at a time.
Baby Step #1 — Find an old picture of yourself at your most awkward age. If you saw that girl walking down the street today what would you think of her? If you could write a letter to that (adorable) girl — what would you tell her about the journey into womanhood? This is actually more challenging then it seems because our memories cloud our ability to see the picture clearly and realistically. Over the years, each time I was forced to look at my 8th grade graduation picture, I cringed at my “enormous” nose that had the mystical powers of ruining my face. When anyone ever mentions junior high, my word association is “gi-normous nose and Dorothy Hamill hairdo” Yet, this time I saw something new: I was smiling. It was a nervous but excited smile of a girl ready for her next adventure. Amazing that I never noticed that before.
Baby Step #2 -- Ask your husband or significant other what they first noticed about you when you met. While our self-deprecating instinct is to assume that he would never remember, take a leap of faith on this one. I promise you EVERYONE remembers. You will be surprised at the details that he will recall about the beauty that swept him off his feet. Remember that you have to resist the urge to debate him or roll your eyes in disbelief. He sees YOU and all of your imagined imperfections as uniquely beautiful. Let him be right for once.
Baby Step #3 — Next time you are with your close friends, toss out the following question and see how they answer. “What is your favorite physical feature?” Not surprisingly, everyone’s initial response will be to delve into all that they “hate” about their looks (popular responses include cellulite, deflated boobs, and newly acquired wrinkles).
Order a bottle of wine and then repeat back ALL of the toxic adjectives we women use to describe ourselves. This should open up a lively and heartfelt discussion on the bullshit distortions that tap-dance in our heads.
Then ask the question again and finish with a toast that celebrates the distinctive beauty of EACH woman. I promise, you will not only see the change — but also you will FEEL it.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois.