Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Power of Image

I've been thinking a lot about self-image lately, mostly as pertains to my own.  Every woman I know struggles with self-image, because there's a huge market, wider than we know, that capitalizes on female insecurity.  That machine sells us on our flawed selves so that we'll not only impulse buy the products that are meant to fix it, but even more insidious, so that we'll subscribe to a lifetime of struggle against our perceived flaws.

Cameron Russell's talk about the power of image in her career as a model was eye-opening.  Because of the way she looks, she's given an abundance of privilege.  Because of this legacy of white, thin, feminine models and the genetic lottery she won, she's inherited social and financial benefits that many of us don't get.  And worse, many people pay the price for their looks, be it race, age, disability and more - all of which has nothing to do with who they are.

I sometimes think that if I were just thinner, tanner, and more toned, I'd be happier.  But that's a fallacy.  Models, as Cameron points out, are the most insecure group of women out there, because their currency is their body.  They have to think about what they look like all the time.  We choose to think about that, but they have to.  And if they gain weight or lose their hair or their looks, it's over.  We all get old.

I feel like I spend way too much time investing in that fallacy.  Honestly, I'm pretty happy on a day-to-day basis.  Stressed and busy, sure.  But honestly, can I live with the way I look?  Hell yes.

And wouldn't it be great if weight loss, tanning, and being more feminine - all of which feed into this machine - weren't my goals?  What if my goal was to get stronger?  To lift more weight?  Run further without stopping?  Change my body to more muscle so it could do more things?  Find health and balance?

Those are things I can change.  What I look like isn't.  So it's time to realize that image is a construct, that life is a choice, and that I can choose to let go of goals that no longer serve me.