What does self worth have to do with being attractive?

If you’re a woman, then you know what it’s like to be appraised on your looks. The ‘once over’ is designed to quickly size you up: are you attractive, fertile, what is your income level, your age, your ethnicity etc… We all know this look because we’ve been on the receiving end of it, as well as (let’s cut the bullshit) on the giving end of it.

As a younger woman, I was extremely concerned with doing well in this game. I wanted to please and I wanted to matter. I worked hard to be beautiful so that random men and women would identify me as attractive — it validated me — it somehow helped me define myself and I felt more worthy because others thought I was. I was given preferred treatment, as long as I dressed the part. So I worked out daily, obsessed over my weight (which I still do), and spent hours shopping for clothes, picking up the right outfit and doing my hair, nails and makeup.

What an exhausting process — so much of my energy and creativity was spent on the quest to be more beautiful. I also remember competing and judging other women on the basis of how well they played this game.

And yes, society conditions us by rewarding us for being attractive while bombarding us with countless unrealistic images of beauty, and when we’re young and searching for a mate to start a family with, we’re naturally more susceptible. But in the the end we alone make the choice every single day as to how much effort is too much effort.

Fast forward 10 years. I’m in my early 40's and overweight. People tell me I’m beautiful but I no longer receive appreciative glances from men nor envious looks from women. But somehow, perhaps through the wisdom that comes with age and finding my own way in the world, I don’t care that much. I care a bit to be honest, but not so much. Not enough anyway to change myself to please others. Perhaps I’ve gained not only some extra pounds but also a sense of self worth. When did this exactly happen I couldn’t say. To my great surprise I am like-able for being me (I used to think I was liked or disliked for my looks) and I definitely have many more girlfriends. I am able to celebrate the beauty of others, no longer feeling like I need to compete. As for men, I find myself frustrated with how shallow they can sometimes be and I certainly no longer want to please them, nor feel a need to be validated by them. I truly question how I could have placed so much value in the superficial opinions of people I knew nothing of, nor cared for myself?!

Having said all this, I do sometimes feel as though I may have gone a bit too far…In my great need to re-define myself on my own terms I’ve lost touch with a part of me that delighted in dressing up, in exploring fashion, in being proud of my body and feeling good about it. Have I needlessly sacrificed some of that female power? I think the answer is yes.

We women may need to reimagine a new way to take care of our bodies, be proud of ourselves and hold onto our sanity. Here are 3 agreements that could help:

  1. Let’s workout, dress well, be our best selves and NOT fall into the trap of judging ourselves (nor others) for these choices. For that’s all they are, choices — they don’t actually make us superior or more worthy. At best they can help make us happy and healthy.
  2. Let’s be loving and supportive of other women while recognizing our own unique beauty. There’s no need to compete, there’s only one of you! Your female friends are the only ones that really know first-hand how you feel and what you’re going through — be generous in spirit and celebrate them.
  3. Let’s not willingly give up our power and let others dictate our worth based on our outward appearance instead we can define ourselves by being excellent friends, hard working professionals and loving family members. We are competent, intelligent and capable of great kindness and friendship and have so many attractive qualities to offer.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a story to share?