Posts Tagged: beauty

Yes, And …


There’s a passage in Tina Fey’s Bossypants that has been repurposed about 16 gajillion times. It’s the one in which she outlines the basic rules of improv. Let’s review the pertinent rule:

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own.

If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.

But if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “What did you expect? We’re in hell.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “Yes, this can’t be good for the wax figures.” Or if I say, “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you say, “I told you we shouldn’t have crawled into this dog’s mouth,” now we’re getting somewhere.*

I’ve seen this – and her other three improv rules – applied to career advice, weight loss motivation, training your mind to be more innovative, and many other topics. But as you might’ve guessed, I intend to bend and warp it until it applies to body image. Let me tell you how. Using an assortment of completely unscientific assumptions and observations.

Our brains are obsessed with scarcity. I imagine this is partially due to our collective hunter-gatherer past: If Sheila over there hoards all the berries there will be fewer for us and we’ll go hungry. Actually, hangry. But to continue superimposing this family of worry over just about everything in our lives NOW? An imprudent waste of energy. I’m thinking specifically of intangibles like success and love and intelligence. When we see others who have these things in abundance, we feel jealousy fueled by the misguided belief that their having of something means there is less of it available overall. That there is a finite amount of success or love or intelligence in the universe, and when Sheila over there proves that she’s got some of it, that means less for the rest of us.

Based on the ways I’ve witnessed women get catty about other women, I think we may subconsciously experience scarcity worry about beauty. We see women around us that are wrinkle-free or tall or marvelously curvy, and we resent them. We want what they have because we think it gives them advantages, but this assumes that what they have isn’t available to us, too. That just because they’re beautiful, we are not. That their specific group of traits works, but our specific group of traits is broken.

Which is bullshit, of course. And my suggestion is this: Next time you catch yourself thinking, “Wow, she sure is beautiful,” tack on a “Yes, and so am I.” Force your brain to realize that there’s no mutual exclusion at play here. Even if you don’t think you’re scarcity-motivated, even if you don’t feel jealousy acutely, even if you are convinced that everything I’ve just said is utterly ludicrous, I urge you to give this a try. Because I believe that completing a thought about someone else’s beauty with, “yes, and so am I” will prove beneficial in the long-run. When you actively compare yourself to someone else, it’s frequently because you view them as being superior to you in some way, right? Well this little phrase – “yes, and” – does two marvelous things at once: It acknowledges that someone else is good/beautiful/in possession of something valuable, and it reminds us that we are also good/beautiful/in possession of valuable things. It creates a circuit of kindness and acceptance, preventing us from falling victim to the scarcity fallacy.

Not exactly what Tina Fey was talking about in her improv rules, I know – she’s focusing on agreeing and adding to the conversation. But the phrase is so perfect for this purpose. And she’s the one who taught it to me. So I hope she doesn’t mind me appropriating it for my own uses.

And for yours.

Image source

*Somewhere around this part of the book she’s giving further improv examples and pens the line that may have made me laugh hardest of anything I’ve ever read: “Here we are in Spain, Dracula!”

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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This Week I Love …

eff your beauty standards

… Tess Holliday’s Instagram, Eff Your Beauty Standards.

So first, if you don’t know Tess, she’s a size 22 model with a major agency contract and a huge fanbase. As you can imagine, she is the target of a whole lotta body hate, and she does her best to take it in stride. And because Instagram is social, you’ll find some godawful comments on her Eff Your Beauty Standards feed, but the posts themselves are a marvelous mix of inspirational-but-not-sappy quotes, photos from fans of all sizes and ages, a general celebration of bodies, beauty, and humanity.

I highly recommend following Eff Your Beauty Standards.

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It’s Not About the Ad

Lovely reader Patty sent me this link a while back, and I hesitated to include it in any roundups because it gets into some diet-y, fitness-y, pushy stuff toward the end. In fact, I’d say if you struggle at all or are in recovery, skip it.

BUT. The first bit was pretty fab, and has stuck with me all this time. Particularly this passage:

Because if we’re honest, this isn’t a war on Photoshop, this isn’t a war on consumerism, and this isn’t a war on glossy magazine ads. Sure, mass media has a collective responsibility to be more honest with their portrayal and we, as consumers, have a collective responsibility to hold them accountable. BUT cultural “ideals” will always be plastered on billboards. That’s not going to change. Even in a non-Photoshopped world, we’re never going to look like supermodels. They’re, you know, super. The perfect storm of genetics and training and nutrition and lighting and makeup and spray tanning and 8 weeks of broccoli goes into one Armani ad.

It’s not about the ad.

This battlefront is waged within each and every one of us, individually. At the end of the day, at the end of the commercial, at the end of the magazine, nobody can make us feel inferior about our body without our permission. The best way to change the ecosystem is to change our own psychology. We have the fundamental, inalienable right to look at a Photoshopped god-like body and appreciate it while simultaneously cherishing our own body.

This perspective isn’t nearly as popular or widely discussed as the need for change in the system.

Now I understand that retouched photos create impossible beauty standards and believe that magazines and ad agencies should back WAY off it. I also understand that being able to look at a Photoshopped image and say, “She looks great. And damn, so do I!” is a worthy goal, but an incredibly difficult one for many of us. Myself included. But it’s the germ of the idea that I’m clinging to: That pushing for change within the advertising and fashion industries is important but slow, and that a quicker route to empowerment is to accept all bodies as good, to discard the figure-shape hierarchy, to explode the definition of beauty and include ourselves in it.

We live in an oppositional world where we’re trained to want – even demand – black or white, yes or no, this or that. There’s not enough “and” in our lives right now. When we look at photos of supposedly “perfect” women’s bodies and faces, many of us – again, myself included – often feel shameful, deflated, filled with failure. Because our brains are saying, “Since I can’t be that, I’ll never be beautiful.” What if we could look at photos of supposedly “perfect” women’s bodies and faces, acknowledge their loveliness, and NOT feel that rush of self-focused negativity? What if we could just note their appearances neutrally, realize they have nothing to do with us or our beauty or our worth, and move on? Easier said than done, not an excuse for rampant re-touching, but definitely worth pondering, I think.

How we feel about our bodies is linked to how we feel about other people’s bodies. But we might be able to weaken that link a bit if we remind ourselves that there’s no one right way to have a beautiful body, and that there’s beauty enough for all of us to go around.

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