Jane at ‘They call me Jane’ today wrote about a wonderful site that I want to share with you here. It’s called Operation Beautiful and it’s a project that I think every woman should be part of, in fact everyone, and certainly all parents. The premise is simple: To leave anonymous post-it notes in public places that simply say ‘you are beautiful’ (or very similar) – a personal boost for anyone seeing them, an assurance that they are in fact beautiful despite what they may currently be feeling. In an extremely brief course of therapy I was told to do something very similar, so according to current thinking this is not a load of hoo-ha, and could actually start to make a difference …and Lord knows, we need to bolster our self -esteem when the messages that constantly surround us in the media seem to do nothing but undermine us.
I have two daughters and maybe because of my own childhood experiences I did everything I could when they were growing up to bolster their feelings of self-worth, to praise them and to tell them how much I love them. Even so, none of us can help but be influenced by the images of ultra skinny, air brushed models that surround us.
Maybe more insidious are the stories of the perfect women with their perfect lives. We’ve all come across them (and much though I love Nigella, in many ways, she’s a major culprit in this) – the women who live in some kind of 1950s Utopia where their children are scrubbed clean, well-behaved, fed perfectly nutritious home-prepared dinners, read a story and put to bed (where they stay and not winge at the top of the stairs) at seven o’clock in the evening, before Mummy cooks up something else – something totally spectacular for her and hubby. Never mind that perfect Mummy has made it her job to make life look perfectly easy and so is paid a perfectly lovely salary. And never mind that perfect Mummy may live in a perfectly lovely house, with a husband with perfectly lovely income that can pay for perfectly lovely home help to clear it all up.
No. Images, TV programmes and magazine articles albound about how easy it all is to look better, do better, be better. The fact of the matter is that life is not perfect, we are not perfect and unlike, say 100 years ago, many of us do not have the support of family close by who can take the pressure off us. We struggle on, doing the best we can, but no doubt constantly feeling that somehow we ‘could do better’.
I also have to say that my experience of other mothers is that we are often our own worst enemies, excellent at psyching each other out. I once visited a friend’s house and she made it a point to show me her airing cupboard. (??!) I soon saw why. It was filled with perfectly laundered and folded laundry, in perfect little stacks. I seem to remember that I maybe inappropriately snorted and said that if you were to take a punt on opening my airing cupboard door you’d most certainly be swamped under a stack of tumbling towels and pants. I subsequently learned that the laundry she was so proud of was farmed out to a professional firm. Well there you go – It’s easy to be perfect, with help.
Go visit Operation Beautiful ladies. In fact, I think everyone should visit, because the message is coming through that boys are increasingly starting to worry about their own body image and I know that despite the good front they put up, grown men also worry that they could do better in our screwed up and over-pressured western society. I’m sure you guys can come up with your own affirming and appropriate post-it note phrase.
Let’s all fight back against the media.