I had a long, enlightening conversation with a bra fitter a few months ago. We were deep in a discussion about style, dressing, and body image when she said that in her profession, every customer she’s met and helped felt has vulnerable and self-conscious.
“No one is happy with what they have,” she told me. “They all want what they haven’t got.”
I thought about my own breasts. I have always wanted them to be bigger. Always. And it wasn’t until I started complaining about them in front of my friends with larger busts than my own that I learned many women would so much rather have small breasts than large. Or even medium. I’ve always had thick, wavy hair and always wanted thin, straight hair. Again, people have told me they’d kill for my hair. (Hopefully not kill ME …) And then I thought about an L’Wren Scott quote I’d seen years and years ago.
“I’ve never met a woman who loves her own body. Ever.”
Scott is a designer whose clientele and fans include SJP, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, and Renée Zellweger – a list that encompasses women with curves and sans curves, tall and short women, ivory- and carmel-skinned women, and women with hair colors and styles of all varieties. Scott knows and works with “elite” bodies of all conformations, and none of them are happy with how they look.
Everyone wants what they don’t have. No one is happy. Even the women who are held up as shining examples of the current beauty standard don’t love their bodies. Just like us, they long to possess traits they see in their peers: Different hair, different sets of curves, different proportions, different everything. Often, in fact, the opposite of what is present: Straight-haired women long for curls, boyish figures long for curves, petite women long for height.
Some of that is fed by companies who sell breast reductions to large-busted women and implants to small-busted women; companies who sell flat-irons to wavy-haired women and curling irons to straight-haired women; companies who sell girdles to women with curves and padded panties to women without curves. Our collective dissatisfaction with our natural figures feeds massive industries on a daily basis.
But I think it’s possible that some of it is the old “greener grass” conundrum, too. Take my bust size hang-up. I got it in my head early on that fuller breasts were better, more attractive, more womanly. And it took several friends with full breasts explaining that their breasts make them targets for jeers and unwelcome advances, that many styles of clothing are impossible on their figures, and that they sometimes experience back strain to change my mind. It took a long time and a lot of pointed comments before I got the message: I wanted what they had, but they wanted what I had. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
So what can we do? We can start with ourselves. We can minimize thoughts and comments about our OWN bodies that cast us as anything other than lovely.
We can support our friends, loved ones, and colleagues through genuine compliments and open affection.
We can talk to each other, communicate, and share. Writing this blog has helped me realize that I want to spend my life helping women to accept themselves. Maybe even love themselves. I want to show that clothes are tools, ideal for expressing your identity and showing off your assets. I want to prove that beauty doesn’t care about what size jeans you wear. I want to convince some small segment of the world’s women that they truly are already pretty. And I want to show them that the grass is plenty green right where they’re standing.