Naked Lies

What do you see when you stand naked in front of your mirror?To quote Carson Kressley, Lifetime Television’s flamboyant host of “How to Look Good Naked,”

“Are you perfect? No. – Are you beautiful? YES!

Carson is correct. In many ways, we are all beautiful. To prove it, he has taken on the herculean task of single-handedly setting out to redefine beauty. While others have tried, Carson may succeed, for he’s redefining beauty where it lives… in your mind.

For as long as I can remember, popular culture has done a disservice to women. It begins early – as toddlers we try to mimic our mothers and/or older sisters. We watch them try, usually in vain, to emulate female perfection as dictated between the front and back covers of the days’ popular beauty magazines, awash in airbrushed photographs of undernourished models, the final prints bearing little resemblance to the human beings upon which they are based.

Sometimes, in order to rebuild, one must first dismantle that which exists. As Carson escorts each woman into his dreaded ‘room of mirrors,’ you see, by the looks upon their faces, that this experience is, as promised, “a girl’s worst nightmare.” Knowing that unseen millions of viewers will, at this moment, render judgement, is crippling to most women. Few, if any… especially those who agree to partake in this exercise… feel that they live up to those deeply ingrained ideals of womanhood.

Two particular episodes come to mind:

Episode #1: Alea, a 27-year-old beauty, is ushered by Carson into the ‘room of mirrors.’ Alea is, by anyone’s standards, quite beautiful. Thin and sculpted, Alea is visibly horrified at her appearance. “When I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws,” she says. Wondering if we’re looking at the same woman, I turn to my husband, who comments, “That’s sad.” He’s right.

Episode #2: Layla, 32-years-old, has been at odds with her figure for twenty years. She spoke of herself as “disgusting,” and used the word “hate” when asked how she felt about herself. Layla was, indeed, unattractive, but it was her attitude and obvious self-loathing that made her so. With Carson’s encouragement, all that was about to change.

Alea and Layla found themselves in a line-up of sorts. Real women, not models, were ushered in for honest side-by-side comparisons with the girls. Later, they found themselves vamping for a professional photographer who provided proof-positive that they were each quite beautiful in their own right.

Over the course of the next few days these two women, each of who spent much of their youth feeling revulsion towards themselves, emerged from their self-imposed isolation and began to see and like themselves for who they are rather than as the ‘before’ photo in some beauty ad. They came to realize that what they always considered ‘faults’ had less to do with their bodies and more to do with their self-image and physical presentation.

This blog is for and about women over 40. Most of us have, inch by inch, revised our internal standard of what it means to be feminine so that it better coincides with the changes that we observe in our own lives and in those of our friends and family. We have a duty to encourage younger women, to share our hard-won knowledge.

Beauty, it has been said, perhaps once too often, is in the eye of the beholder. Nowhere is that cliché better put to the test than when the beholder is you and the beauty that you’re beholding is yourself.

Posted by Mandy Crest, Blogger for Women Over 40 Rock! and In The Trenches Productions