I see it every day on social media. Female-identifying friends and strangers alike sheepishly excusing or apologizing for the way they look.
“Excuse the lack of makeup.”
“Excuse my mom bod.”
“Excuse my size, I only gained weight recently because *insert reason here* and I’m working on getting it all off.”
“Excuse my arms/boobs/paunch/etc.”
“Excuse the stretch marks.”
“Excuse the pimple. I tried to cover it!”
“Excuse my lack of a tan… Will be going this week, promise!”
“Excuse my hair being down/in a ponytail/not straightened/not curled.”
“Excuse the hair, I know it’s crazy today!”
“Excuse the tired face!”
“Excuse my age! I know how silly I look in this!”
“Excuse my teeth, I KNOW I need a whitening appointment!”
They pick apart their own looks and attributes. They ridicule themselves, they bully themselves. And I know this goes beyond social media and straight to social conditioning starting when we are very young. Over time, many of us tend to learn to doubt and ridicule various aspects of the way we look as a sort of self-defense against the severe judgments society passes on us. Because, as cruel as it is, if we DON’T apologize for what we think people won’t like about us, then society and the media will condemn us. And some of us were bullied or ridiculed by people in our lives–family, partners, random kids at school or strangers on the street.
I think social media, especially Instagram, tend to make these attitudes worse. Like fashion magazines and tv, perfection is all you can see on a lot of social media, and as there’s so much of it it’s hard to escape. I think people then think their own looks are subpar because they’re not “perfect” for the eyes of the internet.
Why do we care so much if society and the media judge us for not apologizing for who we are? We are in our reality, our truth, and more often than not that involves messy hair, no makeup, uneven skin, some zits and maybe some red eyes, and maybe even wearing stuff that isn’t “fashionable”.
I am definitely guilty of apologizing for the way I look. I’ve struggled with my weight and self image for my entire life, so it’s not exactly an easy mindset to get out of. I was once obsessed with fitting into the mold society wanted for me. I despised my pale skin and struggled to tan. I dropped to 130 pounds and still thought I was “too fat”. I didn’t wear or do the things I wanted and instead wore what was tame, what was docile, what was fashionable. I apologized for my hair being thin, for my face being too round, for my figure not being the perfect hourglass. When my weight climbed up and up (from a mix of depression and HEY I like food, okay?) I started apologizing to everyone for being too big, for taking up too much space.
I still have this lingering anxiety.
However, I’ve learned to stop apologizing for the way I look. I’ve started developing a much healthier attitude of telling myself: “They don’t like it, they don’t have to look. This is me and I’m not sorry for me. If they make a negative remark, I’ll simply laugh at them because their attempt to bring me down isn’t going to affect me.”
Write something like this down as a mantra. Stick it on the mirror where you see yourself the most.
Then stick another one beside it that says: “I refuse to apologize for who I am.”
Building a healthy self-esteem is not overnight. It can take years and years, but the sooner we all get started, the better.