Recently, one of my study abroad friends told me that I had been brain washed. I responded, “how so?” And she said: “You always say your eyes are ugly when they’re one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.” Just to clarify, this friend was not a guy trying to flirt with me: It was one of my closest girl-friends in the exchange program. She was referring to how I keep saying that I don’t like my eyes as much and how I’d prefer them to be smaller. To my surprise, many people who I’ve met here in Brazil have complimented my eyes and their size. They have complimented the size of those eyes that were once called “ojos de sapo” (frog eyes) out of mockery back when I wore braces and was a smart, skinny 6th grader.
If only I could go back to those days and tell that little innocent girl, 12-year-old Valeria, that everything was okay. That she wasn’t ugly, that her hair was just fine, that her “nerdiness” would give her success, that her pimples would go away, that her nose was not too big, and that none of the nonsense that she heard from (even more insecure) pre-adolescents was just a piece of crap. If only I could back and tell her…
Now that I’m 21, having moved to the US by myself and having lived for 3 months and a half in Brazil, I have realized an infinity of things. One of my classes about prejudice in Freshmen year taught me that the reason why women haven’t been able to climb the power structure in society is because of themselves. The beauty standards promoted by the media foster competition between all of us while we attempt to achieve the unattainable esthetics that they pretend to sell us. In other words, we compete constantly…and we want to be everything: we want to be the one with the best job, the one with the most money, the one with the best brand of shoes, the one with the biggest breasts, with the perfect nose, and with the prettiest clothes. But what does all of that lead us to? Distraction from our professional goals in life, distraction from helping others, distraction from ENJOYING LIFE GENUINELY, distraction from BEING OURSELVES.
Being a student in Brazil and walking around the streets of São Paulo, I see girls hanging out in their uniforms going to and from school and I couldn’t avoid thinking everything I went through when I was their age. To summarize it a little, right after I was excluded from the group of the plastics (yes, the Colombian plastics) I decided to live my life to the fullest, as cliché and corny as that might sound. Back in middle school I took the best decision I could have ever made: I started to hang out with the ones who were considered “the losers.” Since then, I started to laugh more loudly, to dress without having to worry about what others might say, to go to events and concerts only because I really wanted to and not because it was the “trend” (which got Techno music festivals, Reggaeton concerts, etc…out of my list.) And by acknowledging, embracing, and accepting who I am, I started to love myself a little more each day.
And even though that was a long time ago, I am surprised and shocked about how those extreme feelings of superiority and envy are still present in some people who I used to (had to?) interact with for so long. All of this, through the power of Social Media. Because let’s admit it, girls: who’s the person you feel more jealous about? Who’s the person that you feel you compete (even secretly) the most with? Now, lastly, whose is the profile on Facebook that you visit most frequently? Were the faces that appeared in your mind all women? Probably yes. We use Social Media to compare ourselves with other members of our same gender and we use it to compare and nurture our envy and jealousy. We use those images subconsciously as models to what we aspire to be, without acknowledging that those images were probably taken with a lot of make up covering imperfections, a perfect pose that didn’t show that little piece of fat right there, and an effect that covers that little shadow that appears in their eye when they smile. I feel we should STOP this. STOP the judging eye and let’s focus on our progress as women and on how we can help each other.
Let’s talk to our adolescent and pre-adolescent little sisters, cousins, and friends since we can never talk to our insecure self that inhabited the cruel world of Middle School just 11 (or more) years ago. Let’s tell them that since beauty is a SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED CONCEPT it can acquire any form we want to. Beauty is not about wealth, or lightness of skin, or the size of your eyes and nose: it’s about talents, self-confidence, happiness, and love. Let’s just tell them the truth!
Needless to say- This is an awkward (but happy) picture of when I was a Freshmen in High-School.