Should We Be Ashamed of Our Desire for Beauty?
Images are powerful and persuasive.
Beauty, fitting in, being “cool,” and the desire to possess these qualities are equally powerful. I use the word “beauty” since that is our culture’s focus, but underneath it all is a deeper need to fit in, to feel like we belong.
It is a cold, hard fact that media images feed on our desire for beauty. These images tease us and fuel in us a sense of never having or being enough — even for the five percent of the population that are naturally born with a physical "ideal."
Whether you are 5 or 105, or even a celebrity, you will be bombarded with this message:
“Don't worry that you are inadequate; buying our products advertised everywhere — and I mean everywhere — will get you closer to perfection. I promise it will — I read it in a fashion magazine, I heard it on the radio, and Jessie the Nanny to the super rich on TV told my daughters.”
The other truth, equally as powerful, and it's almost intimidating for me to say it, is that as humans, we are born desiring beauty. Since ancient times, we have almost always been drawn to beauty.
As a parent and an eating disorder recovery advocate, I feel stuck. I feel both a need to protect my children from believing in such images and a personal need to have beauty. To me, it feels similar to having both of your children on different sports teams and being forced to cheer for only one.
Fighting against powerful images that depict the cool and ideal form of beauty, while deciphering the truth, can feel like a full-time job.
But the truth is, "I like feeling beautiful."
There, I said it.
These days, the want for beauty seems shameful.
So I've become a closet beauty lover. My life's work is wrapped up in helping people recover from eating disorders and other co-morbidities. To the outsider, it can feel like two topics are polar opposite points of view, but I don't think they are.
Eating disorder recovery and beauty
Eating disorders and obesity are on the rise. Thirty million people within the USA suffer from eating disorders, and 64 percent of our population is classified as “obese” or “overweight.”
And yet, comparisons, bullying, outlandish and damaging diets and illnesses related to our food intake continue to threaten our health and self-esteem. It's unjust and it's broken. As a parent of two girls, it's outright scary. It's crap!
I believe that those of us who have found recovery have done it by challenging the eating disorder. When we discover that eating disorders are founded on untruths, we then can apply these tools to the lies of the media and culture. We have the ability to buy into what we want and leave the rest — thanks to our eating disorder recovery tools.
Being recovered is when we reach the point of not only questioning eating disorders but also questioning our culture’s definition of what it means to be beautiful and worthy. Recovery is owning our passion, power, and purpose. Beauty and the desire for it are not excluded, but those things are not the soul of recovery either.
Robyn Cruze, MA is the National Recovery Advocate and online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.