Recently, the #nomakeupselfie took the world by storm, with women the world over posting photos of themselves without makeup to raise funds for breast cancer research. What made the campaign so popular was the fact that wearing no makeup was somehow seen as an act of bravery, perhaps even akin to running marathons or climbing mountains to raise funds for causes. But does this attitude only serve to remind women of the social pressure to hide their perceived physical flaws?
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A new study has found that men actually prefer women without makeup, which tells us that perhaps our flaws are exaggerated by our lack of confidence in ourselves and really aren’t flaws at all. If we took a minute to view ourselves the way others do, we may finally be able to realise that we are beautiful and our so-called flaws make us who we are.
What makes this study so important is that it emphasises the misconceptions that women have about their appearance. So often, low self-esteem and negative body image impact the way we feel about ourselves as people, which has a direct impact on our relationships with others. Our insecurities often become a crutch to explain our issues with friends or partners, when in reality, it is the insecurity, not the flaw, that is causing the problems.
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How else do we adapt ourselves?
Not only do we feel insecure about what our bodies and faces should look like, but more recently, there is a drive for women to even change the appearance of their vulvas. Labiaplasty (genital modification surgery) is becoming increasingly popular. With porn being so easily accessible and images so easily retouched, women are becoming dissatisfied with what their labia looks like.
Girls as young as 18 years old are opting to have surgery to drastically change the appearance of their vulvas, believing that they are somehow abnormal. The belief is that if the labia minora (inner lips) protrude beyond the labia majora (outer lips) then the vulva is ugly. The truth is that our vulvas and vaginas come in all shapes and sizes, and men love them all! Very few couples seek therapy because there is a problem with the appearance of the vulva.
How does this impact on our relationships?
Trying to conform to all of these rules can be tiring and even depressing. So often, when couples see me for relationship counselling, women describe insecurities about their appearance, believing that if they looked a certain way, then the relationship would be better. Some of my female clients even experience depression stemming from judgement about their appearance. But their partners usually adore them and all they want is for her to realise her true beauty. Low self-esteem can have an impact on so many areas of our lives, creating a vicious circle of damaging thinking.
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Negative body image can affect women to the point that some of us avoid having sex with our partner for fear of judgement, and this can have ripple effects throughout the relationship. Realising that our beliefs surrounding how we look are unrealistic may just create a space for a healthier relationship. When we get in touch with our attractiveness, regardless of the prescribed beauty rules, our relationships with ourselves become more loving, which creates a space for a more intimate relationship with our partner.
Couples are happiest when a woman embraces her uniqueness and allows herself the full range of self-expression. When we constrain ourselves with mistaken beliefs about what we should look like, we limit the passion, desire and fullness there is to be felt in life. It may be a cliché, but there is some truth to the old adage that before you find love from another, perhaps it is important to love yourself first.