By Karen Wyman
Last week, a 14-year-old girl from Maine started a demonstration that quickly spread across the nation. Teenage girls everywhere began protesting “Seventeen” magazine for airbrushing the young models in their fashion shoots. Many believe these unrealistic standards create negative body images in the minds of impressionable young female readers. Often times, adult females also fall victim to the same warped perception presented to them in magazines. From a young age, we are programmed to equate thinness with beauty. You can even argue that “Barbie” and the Disney princesses carry this same underlying message. The “Ugly Stepsisters” never got the Prince, that’s for sure. If only we understood back then that true beauty comes from within. My girlfriends and I always joke while flipping through magazines that if we had endless money, a private trainer and a live-in cook we too could look like super models. However, even without such luxuries, it is still possible to level the playing field—just get Photoshop! Under those hair extensions, spray tans and airbrushed makeup, I guarantee there is at least one imperfection. Surely there are a few spider veins, pimples and perhaps even cellulite behind all the smoke and mirrors. As adults, we tend to realize and understand this phenomenon, but so many adolescent girls struggle with this unfair ideal. Even if you consider yourself a confident person, there are probably times when it’s difficult to refrain from comparing yourself to the false perfection that is constantly presented to us. For instance, it never fails when I bite into that ice cream late at night—a Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on and makes me feel guilty and upset for my indulgence. Of course I still continue eating, but I do so self-consciously while contemplating if the secret that Victoria is keeping could be that all of her models are airbrushed and not truly flawless. By the end of the pint, this thought makes me feel much better! As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” So let’s stop allowing these damaging perceptions to drain our self-esteem and rob our younger counterparts of theirs. As summer approaches, and we inevitably must reveal more skin, let’s take the time to uplift those around us. Men and boys this goes for you, too! We should take time to genuinely compliment others—you never know when a kind word can save a person from a dark place. Let’s focus on each other’s kindness, intelligence and sense of humor instead of dwelling on physical appearance. Of course, it’s also nice to compliment on outward beauty, but try to re-evaluate your idea of what constitutes beauty. For example, most of us would agree that Julia Roberts and Christie Brinkley have beautiful smiles, yet in reality isn’t seeing absolutely anyone smile a beautiful thing? Full lips and brilliant white straight teeth aren’t the important elements that make a smile beautiful—the act itself is what’s beautiful. I love that the theme of our Williston 4th of July parade is “Hometown Heroes.” We can happily celebrate people for truly important and admirable attributes such as altruism, dedication, bravery and selflessness. The Williston Recreation Department is also offering many day camps this summer for boys and girls of all ages which will focus on building confidence and boosting self-esteem. Another great program Williston participates in is “Girls on the Run,” which encourages adolescent girls to respect themselves and to maintain their physical and emotional wellbeing in a healthy way through running. As a community, we should all try to abandon our preconceived notion of beauty and concentrate on loving ourselves, and others, for what’s inside. We can’t stop Hollywood’s magical illusions of women, but we can expose what is really behind all of that perfection—an amazing graphic designer! You should tell yourself and those you love every day these words from the Academy Award nominated film “The Help”: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I am so tempted to correct the grammar, but wouldn’t that be covering up the flaws of something that is beautiful in its own right? Hmmm… Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for six years, and lives with her husband and twin 4-year-old daughters.