One of my favorite movies of all time is Clueless because I have excellent/deplorable taste.
I got the movie on VHS (lols!) when it came out in 1995. I was almost ten years old. One weekend, I played the movie on repeat over and over and over for the entire two days. I fell asleep in the TV room with it on, and would wake up to it on. I memorized every line (still know them!) and every mannerism. Everything about that movie is forever etched in my brain.
I looked at Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher and completely idolized her. She was everything I wanted to be and more. Boys loved her because she was beautiful, pretty, gorgeous, rich, spoiled…
And that’s it. Yep. Everything I ever wanted to be.
I was happy that at least I had my hair color going for me. I was naturally blonde like Cher, but alas; my hair is wavy and frizzy. Not straight and sleek like hers. Oh, how desperately I wanted it to be straight! Her hair was beautiful and sexy. She could wear it all sorts of ways and heads would turn.
I wanted to be Cher because she was beautiful on the outside. But she wasn’t smart, unique, or profound. She wasn’t an independent thinker (or a thinker period.) She was essentially a pretty void, but even still boys drooled over her as if she were a Big Mac in lingerie because hot damn is she gorgeous. Cher’s pseudo-attempt at being a decent person is shown when she picks up an equally clueless girl (Brittany Murphy’s character Tai) dressed in “drab” grunge clothes, sans makeup or friends, and gives her a makeover as a favor. Suddenly a shorter skirt and a dye job makes Tai the most popular girl in school. In other words, the message of the entire movie is that the only thing that matters about a woman is what she looks like. Ladies, according to this piece of cinematic genius, your looks are the extent of your value. You are only as good as your appearance is.
And there I was, ten years old, already comparing myself (and falling short) to a girl based solely on appearance. I had fallen into a trap that I’d still be desperately trying to claw my way out of fifteen years later.
It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario. Was I comparing myself to other women because I was born a girl and that’s just what girls do? Or was I doing so because I was exposed to such negative messages at such a young and impressionable age?
The sad part is that fifteen years later it hasn’t gone away. Sure, I’ve matured and learned that beauty (and self-worth) is much more than skin deep. But the poison that is comparison and self-scrutinizing hasn’t been defeated. It’s no secret that traditional forms of media (television, radio, movies) completely distort the realistic view of what women are like and are supposed to be like. But now we have a new enemy: the Internet.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most people dress their Facebook profiles up to present the most awesome version of themselves. Take mine, for instance. My current profile picture happens to be one taken from my good side. My political views are listed not as a particular political party or affiliation, but rather a Bible verse to show you just how good of a Christian I am (only the best Christians use Bible verses in their Facebook profile. It proves that they know the Bible better than you.) Under my favorite music, I don’t list my favorite band because if I do, I’m undoubtedly subject to ridicule. Instead, I list semi-obscure local and indie bands to show you just how hip I am.
And this is just one Facebook profile out of over 500 million! Holy reality distortion, Batman!
Even though I’m (thankfully) not watching Clueless on repeat anymore, I find myself constantly refreshing my Facebook and scrolling through profiles and pictures of women my age who are prettier, skinnier, smarter, funnier, more talented, better writers, better wives, better at everything, etc.
Ugh. What have we come to? Why do we do this to ourselves? We are meant to be allies, not enemies. The diversity among us is what makes us beautiful. Unique. Special. Lovely. Precious.
One of my closest friends just gave up Facebook. She still has it, and gets updates on her iPhone, but doesn’t scroll through profiles or pictures because of how unhealthy the behavior has proven to be. When she told me this, I was immediately inspired to do the same thing. How freeing! To be able to go about my day blissfully unaware of how many women there are out there to whom I don’t measure up and, even more importantly, being comfortable with myself and knowing the truth that life is not a competition.
But I haven’t done it yet. Because it’s just too bloody scary.
It’s scary to step into the unknown world of self-acceptance. I’ve never known reality without wishing I was born someone else with other talents, looks, thoughts, passions, life goals…
If I feel comfortable in my own skin, and stop comparing myself to other women, what will I do? Will I lose the motivation that I’ve had since childhood to change into something I’m not?