Stop Trying to be Beautiful: The Negative Result of the Self-Esteem Movement

So I’m a bigger girl. Depending on how much of an insomniac I am at the given moment, I tend to be about thirty pounds overweight–which pretty much means that I have a gut, just not one big enough to be noticeably affected by the forces of gravity. In short, I am more than a bit fat. It is what it is. I wear clothes that flatter my body type and work out enough to stop my legs from getting all cellulite-y, and that’s about it. I actually found a nice website that shows height/weight body types, and here‘s mine. So as a fat girl, I have this to say: STOP with the weird, stupid body positivity stuff. Stop it. Just look at this.

As a self-proclaimed fat woman herself, Brazilian photographer Mariana Godoy wants to rid the negative stigma from the word “fat” and show that fat can be just as beautiful as any other body type.

Hey, I’m a self-proclaimed fat woman! We have something in common. That seems to be about it. I’m just sitting here wondering how you can be both fat and Brazilian since all of the Brazilian people I’ve met have had the metabolism of a fucking hummingbird, but that’s neither here nor there.

Having cultural beauty standards is not a bad thing. That’s what this entire mess boils down to. Beauty standards are not a good thing either. They’re just a thing that exist, and they change constantly. Remember when “heroine-chic” was a thing? Now the cultural perception of beauty seems to be very ass-centric for some reason. There was even a point in time when my body type was considered the cultural ideal. In the 1960s, the ideal body type for men was what we call the “dad bod” now. Beauty standards are a constantly fluctuating thing that lead to embarrassing fads like 80’s hair and the aforementioned heroine-chic.

Another fun fact: objectively attractive people are considered objectively attractive because they look close to the average. Go look up Virtual Ms. Germany if you want to know what an “average” face looks like. Another fun fact: the reason you hardly ever see objectively attractive people on “Hottest Celebs of the Year” lists is because, while having an “average” face looks nice, it’s having features that deviate from the average that make people go from “very nice-looking” to “beautiful,” with “beautiful” being totally subjective. That’s also how ugliness works–people deviating from the average in a noticeable fashion. This is the reason why people either think Benedict Cumberbatch is the sexiest man on the planet or they think he looks like a turtle. This is the reason why people either think Angelina Jolie is the hottest woman alive or they think she looks like an evil witch with fish lips. This is the reason why Marilyn Monroe could walk around in public with nobody bothering her until she just changed her posture and everyone around suddenly noticed she was hot. It’s why beauty standards change all the time–people latch on to one feature that deviates from the average that made someone look beautiful, and they took it, and they ran with it even though that one feature probably wasn’t going to look good on everybody the way “average” features do.

Wanting to be “beautiful” is a totally ethereal fucking concept. I’m sure someone out there thinks the women in these pictures are beautiful already. It’s being objectively attractive that is a goal with actually attainable results. And, I’m sorry to all the fat ladies out there, but barring a Wall-E style obesity epidemic, the chances of us being objectively attractive any time soon are not very high. Get over it.

Godoy’s new photo series “Empoderarte Me,” translated as “Empowering Me,” features plus-size women posing in lingerie. Some of the images feature the women with different slogans written on their bodies to protest fatphobia and encourage body love.

I am all for feeling comfortable in your own skin, okay? Other people won’t love you until you love yourself first, yadayadayada. That being said, there is a difference between empowering yourself and asking other people to empower you. And if you get all of your empowerment from other people, your self esteem is going to fucking plummet. If your empowerment is contingent upon the outside world’s reaction to you, you are not empowered, you’re just an insecure person who just so happens to be getting positive attention.

“The fat woman is so sexy and beautiful,” Godoy told The Huffington Post. “I want people to see that the word ‘fat’ is not an insult but a compliment. Being fat and loving your body is amazing.”

“The fat woman” is not sexy and beautiful, the same way “the freakishly skinny” woman is not sexy and beautiful, “the muscled woman” is not sexy and beautiful. To ask everyone around you to find you attractive is asking something impossible. “Fat” is an insult sometimes. But other times it is just a neutral statement of the facts. If you are fat, you are fat. And if someone simply pointing out to you that you are fat is seen as an insult, the issue is with you. I agree that people shouldn’t hate themselves for how they look, but telling yourself the blanket statement, “I am amazing, no matter what.” is just flat out not true. It’s not. It’s a self-esteem boost at the cost of self-improvement. It’s the body-centric version of giving the losing little league team a trophy for being good sports.

I don’t have to do anything different! Why actually try to be the best when I’m going to be treated like I am no matter what?!

The images are undeniably powerful because each woman looks comfortable and happy in her own skin. “I chose lingerie because photographs of fat woman in lingerie are rare, so this was a form of protest and self-acceptance,” Godoy told The Daily Mail.

Godoy told HuffPost that “being fat is a fight” that she’s dealt with her entire life. “There is a lot of prejudice against the word fat there… people judge and condemn fat people,” Godoy “This is a fight I really want to win.”

Take a look below at some of Godoy’s gorgeous images of women reclaiming the word “fat.”

I’m just going to be perfectly honest right now. I don’t think these women are attractive. I think some of the photos themselves are interesting, and I’m happy that the women featured in them are happy. But, yeah. Not attractive to me. Their back folds draping over a pair of lacy underwear is like anti-attractiveness to me. The thing it reminds me most of is this one Spongebob scene.

How is this going to stop people from negatively judging you? How? So you’re proud of being kinda grossly overweight, good for you. That’s not going to make people stop thinking that you’re grossly overweight, even if you’re really in their face about it by wearing skimpy clothes. What fight are you winning? Why preconceptions are you going to smash by doing this? If someone wasn’t okay with you being fat before, this definitely isn’t going to change their mind on the subject. So the only people who are going to like this are the people who have already jumped aboard the Body Positivism train.

And you know what? If they are so goddamn comfortable with themselves, me and other people not thinking they are attractive shouldn’t matter.

That is the issue with this new self-esteem movement. You can’t just be left alone to your own devices, you have to be validated. You can’t just do something that you want to do, you have to be praised for doing it. If you went into this with the goal of impressing upon people that maybe they should stop being so overtly dickish to fat people because it’s not nice, fine. Being a dick isn’t cool, and making fun of the fat person just because they’re fat is probably less of a motivator for them to get skinnier and more of a motivator for them to go cry into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s because they feel like no one likes them.

Negative motivators only work for people with a very certain kind of psychological profile–the super, super Type A individuals who see negative feedback as something they need to prove people wrong about, because “fuck those people who don’t like me, I’m awesome.” That is not what most people are like, though. It’s just not. Being treated like shit  doesn’t tend to make people feel better about themselves. Anyone who makes bullying comments and then condescendingly writes it off as “I’m not an asshole, I’m just giving them motivation to change,” is an ass. There’s a reason hack motivational speakers don’t go on stage and insult everyone in the audience–because that tactic doesn’t work.

All that being said though, neither does the “Ignore all negative statements because negative things make you feel bad.” tactic. How about instead of telling people that they are beautiful and flawless no matter what, you tell them to stop attaching their self-worth to whether or not the world thinks they’re beautiful. Why not take beauty out of the equation and tell them, “No, you’re not beautiful, and that shouldn’t fucking matter.”

Being fat is not healthy. It objectively is not. Having a bit of fat is okay–you can get lost in the woods and be the last one to die of starvation. But once you get to the level of the women in these photos, you are not healthy. I can still see my toes when I look down, and I have horribly annoying knee problems that, in turn, made it more difficult to work out and lose the weight that caused those knees problems. I can tell you right now, I didn’t have said horribly annoying knee problems when I was a healthier weight. I also can’t run worth a fuck, so hopefully I’m never in a situation where I have to run for my life any time soon. And those are issues I have as someone  who isn’t even fifty pounds overweight. I can’t imagine what issues you’d have if you were as big as some of them.

It is just not good for you. And if you want to say, “Fuck it, I’m fat, I don’t care.” fine. Do that. It’s your body. I’m not going to tell you what to do with it. But don’t ask everyone around you to lie to you about it. Don’t ask everyone around you to smile and nod while you talk about how you’re perfectly healthy and the doctor telling you that you need to lose weight or else risk getting diabetes is just fat shaming you. Don’t complain about how the airline made you buy two seats because someone totally could have sat next to you once they moved your flab out of the way. Don’t ask people to find you attractive when they don’t.

That’s all this is. It’s fat women–and pretty much exclusively fat women–demanding that the world accept them and praise them and validate them. It’s them demanding to be considered attractive. It’s them just wanting to be validated by other people. It’s not them asking for people to stop judging them and just let them live their life, it’s them asking for people to judge them positively. They can’t just be seen as neutral, they have to be seen as beautiful. Because they are special and they deserve to be treated nicely by everyone all the time, and it’s no okay for their feelings to be hurt. All the participation ribbons in their scrapbook say so. They’re a winner, and they deserve to be treated like a winner. . . . Even when they’re not.

It’s just narcissistic and entitled. People are not required to appeal to your narcissism and tell you how great you are against all logic. People are not required to make you feel good about yourself. And if forcing that idea on them is the only way that you can boost your self-esteem, having everyone around you praise you for being beautiful isn’t going to be enough to help with that. You have bigger issues. No pun intended.


4 thoughts on “Stop Trying to be Beautiful: The Negative Result of the Self-Esteem Movement

  1. Nataliya Kochergova says:

    You wrote about something I was thinking about for a long time recently. All these writings and videos where they try to convince you you’re beautiful – they are not very convincing. Why is being beautiful so important? Most people are average, even with best effort. And average people get jobs, have families and generally don’t lack happiness. It’s ok not to be beautiful, in other words.

    I also feel odd about the encouragement to “love yourself”. It sounds funny. I’d rather say I respect myself and take care of myself. I think it’s not a coincidence that this expression is correlated with people who are plagued by self-loathing. It’s hard for them to have normal human self-respect, so they must use methods such as “loving yourself” to get there. Whether it works or not, I don’t know. I think it’s important to learn to separate recognition of one’s mistakes from self-hatred.

  2. Sierra says:

    Agreement! I never understood the point of these campaigns either. If anything, they perpetuate people’s obsessions with looks. Also, let people do and like what they want. Whenever I choose to straighten my hair or lose weight, I am accused of perpetuating “Western beauty standards.” (Like, so what?) Even with my best efforts, there will be guys who aren’t attracted to me since I am not their type, just like I’m not attracted to all guys.

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