After trying to spend last post defining the 3 values of Health, Beauty & Fitness, this time I want to see how they play into our every day lives and how we are conditioned to prioritize and confuse them.
Recently a news story came out where Khloe Kardashian felt the need to post a LIVE video and full post in order to show her body unfiltered, as earlier in the week an unauthorized, assuming less than flattering (as it can no longer been seen) photo was posted.
This display is an excellent example of how we as Society will claim we care about Health & Fitness more than Beauty however, we are conditioned to prioritize a Beauty standard above all else.
Khloe’s reaction and ensuing statement highlights the pressure that she feels to meet a standard. It is well documented the amount of plastic surgery her famous family has done. She expresses both the incredible pain and insecurity of being in both a famous family, and of being held to an impossible standard; yet also seems to end her post by saying that now it’s her choice to fit this mould. Equating a good filter or edit, to make up, nails done – she shows the desire, the need, to control the way the world sees her.
This statement hurt my heart, it worries me that it is so hard to acknowledge that her mental health suffers due to the pressure to fit Beauty. Her need to control how people view her, to ‘Fit’ into her family. Khloe pushes products that add to your workout, like the recent ‘What Waist Official’ band, to intensify your workout. She has a size inclusive line but isn’t comfortable with unedited photos of herself on the internet. She is in what appears good physical shape, it is evident she works out hard, she has lots of privilege and access to the best of all things Health. I ask, what good is it if your Mental Health is suffering? Are you Healthy? Are you Fit? What does this standard of Beauty do to us?
I was speaking with someone about the pandemic, priorities and the idea about these posts. She is someone that I believe would hold all 3 in her top 10 values, and I told her so. She started to refute me, that only Health and Fitness were her passions, that Beauty had nothing to do with it. She pointed out how little make up she wears, as a sort of proof.
I had to tread lightly but I started by pointing out her love of music, of art and fashion, she warmed up a bit to the idea of beauty. I didn’t dare mention her breast implants, which she got because of a lifelong feeling of inadequacy around her small chested-ness. I did however ask about her eyelash extensions and fake nails, that she somehow maintained the entire lockdown period. I questioned the Why behind having them done, it was for Beauty, to be efficient in looking beautiful, but for looks none the less. She has been willing to skirt the Public Health orders, to maintain her appearance, and I think we can agree false lashes and nails are not for Health. She once told me her mother brought her up to believe her sister was the smart one and she was the pretty one, that, was where her value lies.
It is so easy for us to get lost in the blurred lines between Health, Beauty & Fitness.
I want to start with Plastic Surgery, Breast Implants as an example to start, please know this is with no judgement to those that have them – I completely understand the societal pressure to ‘Fit’ a certain look or shape. I myself, struggled with having my breasts reduced for fear that I might become disproportionate or that it might affect my appearance.
I have friends, that people, that I, would consider very Health and Fitness conscious; they eat whole foods, watch what they put in their bodies, move daily and they shop at speciality grocers for the best and freshest of produce/grains, food options, etc. These same individuals willingly put silicone sacs (which is extracted from silica, the stuff in those little packs that we are told to keep away from children and not eat), filled with gel or saline under their breast muscles for Beauty. I realize how harsh that sounds/came out, and my aim is not to be unkind but factual. There are several reports now coming out around Breast Implant illness, with the FDA and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation developing and funding new research on BII. My desire is to highlight the dichotomy of the above.
We are taught from an early age that how we look adds value to who we are, and to place that value on to others as well.
I remember when my mom had her eyes cosmetically fixed, like an eye lift, not full face, I was so perturbed. I thought, if it had been a breast reduction, or tummy tuck I would understand but not the face. In reflecting for this post, I realized that it was probably because my whole life I have been told I look like my mother. I am taller and broader, but my face is that of her family – I think she looks more like her mom, and me like her dad, but I can definitely admit, there is a strong resemblance.
I remember when struggling with my looks in my youth, my teens and young adult life, I used to sit and stare at my face in the mirror and tell myself how at least I had a good face. I would always have thick thighs, and a loaf (vs rolls) around my stomach but my face, my face is good. So when my mother, decided her natural face was no longer good enough, it hurt me, probably not rationally so and definitely not consciously but it hurt, and I gave her a hard time, and now I think I’m realizing why.
The argument could be made that if having Plastic surgery makes you more confident and you feel better in your skin than it is good for your mental health. My question is why don’t you feel happy with the body that you are born into? What creates that feeling of needing to change/improve your natural appearance? To me the answer is Societal pressures, ones that are unreasonable and irrational.
When is it that we convince ourselves that we aren’t good enough?
I saw a post on @oilandgrain’s instagram stories that was by @nourish_by_kristina that resonates with me so much because it is so true.
It’s kinda funny that I feel I need to preface this next story, which I won’t do again, so please know that the stories or examples I bring up hold questioning and curiosity more than judgement.
So my example is of a situation where appearance, size, lifestyle isn’t always as it seems. When my daughter was about 16 months I went to Mexico with my dad and two friends. I was in the middle age wise of the group, but the only parent, and by looks it would be assumed that I was the most out of shape. Both friends are naturally slimmer than me, one was conscious with what they ate and the other not at all. One actually likes to still retell the story of one time me asking her if she worked out in secret, because her natural body looks as though she is very active, like about 6 days a week, and having travelled with her I know she is a not a restrictive eater, she eats enough but not healthy, she is genetically blessed. Anywho our resort was about a 20 min walk from it’s sister resort, and I would want to walk because it was easy enough to push the stroller vs loading it into the shuttle plus a little exercise was a bonus. I’ll never forget one night, both girls gave me a hard time about me not wanting to take the shuttle. Me, from an outsider views, the ‘out of shape’ mom was the fittest of the group.
Another example of looks being deceiving is runners in water. I have one friend whom is an incredible runner, and will always forever kick my butt in that arena. And really physiologically it makes sense to me, her thighs, are incredibly strong, but also are about 1/3 the size of my own. The sheer weight of my legs in comparison to hers, makes running harder for me (not to mention how much shorter mine are) – but get us in a pool and I’m winning!
My point being that every one of our bodies are made differently and each has powers within them.
Why is that we believe there is a standard? Why is it the standard is for women to be small and men to be big? That women must shrink and men dominate?
I have always marvelled at pregnancy… how or why was it that someone addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, someone over or underweight can carry a baby to term but a seemingly healthy woman, one that is ‘fit’, eats well, doesn’t smoke, can suffer several miscarriages? or have trouble conceiving in the first place.
It’s a really hard concept to wrap ones head around because it’s a crap shoot. And it is another example of how we confuse Fit and Healthy. It an example that begs us to have compassion for our fellow humans.
One of the conversations I have had a lot this last year was around why I like to stay fit and/or eat well, if not to live longer. The idea being, and this won’t be a popular opinion but that I am not doing it to extend my life. I have no misconceived notion that physical activity is going to guarantee me extra years on this earth; or that eating a salad vs having a blizzard is somehow going gain me an extra day. I don’t believe any of it makes a difference in the end, you maker comes when it is your time.
The reasons why I like to move often, daily if possible, at least 4 times a week with intention, is because it helps my day to day life. I mind what I eat, in a reasonable way now as I definitely recognize disordered eating in my past, because I like fibre and how it feels when I have a daily bowel movement. I drink a ton of water because when I don’t my skin feels dry and my eyes (after scratching my cornea twice) don’t hurt when I blink.
I don’t think these things protect me pandemics, or will save me from getting cancer. As I mentioned in my first post around these three values, my mother, who is very physically fit and healthy, has had cancer.
Yes, swimming as a kid and learning breath control makes it easier for me to come out of asthma attacks but my anaphylactic allergy to random pollens and chemicals is out of my control.
I guess what this whole post is trying to get at is that society, media, the patriarchy, other humans in general (those that need to feel superior) try to control things, things that really aren’t meant to be in our control. The irony to me is, most that believe they are against a controlled life are the ones most interested in controlling others or subjecting others to a standard that they believe.
And again what point does the need for control wear on our Mental Health? And if we don’t have our Mental Health – can we be Beautiful, Healthy or Fit?
I could go further into the confusion and standards how they affect race relations, marginalized communities, politics but those are topics deserving of their own posts. For now I’ll leave you here.
Next week we will work inward on how we hold privilege in the 3 values or face obstacles.