How Being a Slave to Beauty Hurts You


Jane Fonda turns 80 in December. Last Sunday night she appeared at the Emmy awards with an amazingly youthful appearance for someone who’s 79 years old. How does this affect you as a woman today?

We don’t always see how much we’re pressured by unrealistic and unattainable beauty ideals. Their influence is subtle, yet very persuasive. Does Jane Fonda’s youthful appearance pressure you to look this good at age 79, for example?

I don’t want to pick on Jane, but when 90% of women are unhappy with their looks, we have got to admit that there are some serious consequences to our culture’s obsession with youthful beauty.

Think about this: What happens at 80 if you don’t look like Jane Fonda?

Fat-Shaming Hurts All Women

If Jane had looked 80 at the Emmy’s, we would have heard even more ageist remarks. Ageism is discrimination based on your age, usually referring to prejudice against elderly people. Of course, famous women are no strangers to public body-shaming: people wondered if Jennifer Aniston was pregnant after eating a big hamburger, Rihanna was blasted when she gained a few pounds, and people shamed Lady Gaga’s body at the Super Bowl. In fact, stars often take the brunt of pressure because they’re in the public eye.

You don’t have to be famous to feel the weight of ageism or lookism, discrimination based on your looks. Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought your looks needed help? Maybe you thought you’d be more likely to find a boyfriend if only you had bigger breasts, lost ten pounds, or got rid of those crow’s feet around your eyes. Whatever your physical hang ups, being unhappy and self-conscious about your appearance even makes relating to men difficult. For example, how can you focus on having a good time on your date and figuring out if he’s right for you when you’re concerned about whether you’re attractive enough for him?

It goes much deeper than just your relationships with others; I am talking about your relationship with yourself. Most of us feel the need to look good not just to attract a man, but also to meet our own standards of what it means to be a beautiful woman. With the bar being raised to ever more unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards, women just feel worse and worse about themselves because it’s impossible to keep up.

Remember that body-shaming is a form of bullying and people respond to bullying differently. Studies have linked it to poor self esteem and depression, and even more trouble losing weight. If you’re a wealthy movie star, it’s easy to imagine that so much criticism could motivate you to have more plastic surgery and beauty procedures.

Jane Fonda: A Role Model for Aging Women or a Woman Brainwashed by Our Culture?

The average woman simply can’t afford the plastic surgeries and beauty treatments necessary to look that good at 80. So why has Jane put in so much effort to look young? Does she need to look that good to find roles in Hollywood? Or is she just doing what so many of the rest of us are doing to keep up with the Jones’, with a lot more money and time at her disposal?

What lessons can you learn from Jane’s choices?:

  • Jane may be trying to meet expectations that require her to be “attractive” to be important and desirable. The more women like Jane that make 80 the new 70, the more pressure we’ll feel to look as good as they do to be significant. The problem is, we won’t look like that at her age – unless someone discovers a very affordable fountain of youth. It doesn’t give us more power if we have to look like 69 when we’re 80. But it does have the potential to make us feel bad about ourselves.
  • Jane may believe that beauty gives value and power to women. Maybe she doesn’t realize that this belief has a flip side: if you aren’t youthful and beautiful, you aren’t as powerful or valuable. This is simply not true.

Since I have never met or evaluated Jane, I have no first-hand knowledge of her motivations. From reading her book, My Life So Far, I know that she is no stranger to the desire to be a people-pleaser that is common among women, referring to it as her “disease to please.”

With so much pressure to look good and be sexy, it is no wonder that women are reporting higher levels of dissatisfaction in their appearances than before – again, we are talking about 90% of women! Unhappiness is certainly not empowerment. Catering to other people’s ideas of beauty and power is a lot more like people-pleasing.

Just ask Jane.

Fight the Tyranny of Beauty

We have a tyranny of beauty in our culture that we’re bound to perpetuate unless we step back and see what we’re doing to ourselves. Consider the role models we are providing to girls and young women. We are teaching them that their bodies aren’t good enough the way they are.

We can take a stand against this tyranny of beauty.

You have more power when you can accept and love yourself the way you are.  Self-confidence comes easier when you prioritize your inner beauty over your exterior. Never forget how important your inner beauty is.

Imagine what would happen if we had support from other women. What if we could accept our looks and truly appreciate our inner beauty instead?  We’d begin to expect acceptance and respect rather than criticism and shame.

You can change your mindset, your love life, and the world. Help your sisters, your daughters and yourselves by joining the revolution! Join me in a new revolution where we stand together in creating a healthier environment. Be your own Brand of Sexy.

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