Sometimes I get overwhelmed by how many incredible women surround me in every area of my life: my family, my best friends, my coworkers, friends of my close friends, the list goes on for miles. And it’s only intensified by the fact that I’m involved in the comedy community in Chicago, where there are talented, inspiring, smart, admirable women everywhere I look.
But lately, more so than usual, too many women I know, and plenty that I don’t, have been struggling with their own self-worth – particularly, how they feel about the outside of their body.
And it hurts to hear that, so badly. I think it hurts any woman in existence to hear another woman say that – even one she doesn’t know.
We internalize one another’s pain, because almost all of us have felt that way before – that crushing sense of embarrassment, self-hatred, inadequacy, unworthiness.
That awful feeling that we’re not physically beautiful enough to deserve our own respect. Sometimes we’ve felt it in our pasts, sometimes every once in a while – in phases, sometimes every day.
It hurts because we can’t help but see our own fragility in one another. When I hear words like “disgusting,” which is such an awful word but an unrelenting fan favorite, my stomach drops. I hate that word. Because I’ve felt disgusting before. I hate when my friends use it, I hate when family members use it, I hate when women I don’t even know use it. Because I know exactly what they mean when they use it on themselves.
It’s the harshest word you can think of to punish yourself for daring to look the way you do. We use “disgusting” like a weapon. For eating too much or too little, overexercising or not exercising at all. Having the wrong breast size or wearing unflattering clothes. Not looking the same as our sisters or mothers or best friends or the endlessly flawless women on Instagram.
It doesn’t help when videos like “Dear Fat People” are still showing up, regardless of how hard we’re fighting back against people who do and say and believe those kinds of things. It doesn’t help that our economy thrives on a culture of telling people they aren’t good enough – that they need to keep spending money on their physical appearance if they’re ever going to stand a fighting chance.
And so I want to tell you that you’re beautiful. That you deserve respect. That your appearance has nothing to do with what kind of person you are. Because those things are all true. But that’s not going to work.
Because in spite of all the sweet, lovely, inspirational videos and Instagram accounts and books and songs and movements that continue happening, the word “disgusting” continues to be used.
Why? Because although we hear these kind things being said to us, although we read the essays and watch the videos and admire the inspirational photos – believing that we are beautiful and worthy is so much easier said than done.
So here’s what I’ll say: keep bringing goodness into your life through books and videos and uplifting websites and people. But do not sit back and act entitled, believing that you deserve everything you want just because people are saying you’re good enough. Instead, go the hell after what you want. On the day that you’re feeling your very worst, work that much harder at your job, on your relationships, on getting to a healthy place with your body, on achieving your goals and following your gut. That is where you will snatch your power back from the ads and magazines and occasional people who make you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy with yourself.
And remember that you’re not alone.
Remember that on that “disgusting” day when you’re practically crying in the dressing room and hating, hating, those fluorescent lights – that the beautiful woman in the room next to you is probably doing the same thing.
And if she isn’t crying in that moment, she’s probably cried in a dressing room at some point in her life. That woman, who you want to hug and reassure and remind that she is beautiful, feels the same way about you.