Saturday, June 23, 2018

Parenting Pointers: Beauty Redefined

A massive cultural shift is underway for women across the nation—brought center stage this week when the Miss America competition scrapped the swimwear segment, no longer judging candidates “based on physical appearance.” But will this redefine beauty, or is it just a publicity stunt?

“This is an extremely positive and timely shift, needed in a time when Instagram models and reality TV show celebrities have taken center stage,” says Seline Shenoy, life coach and author of the new book, Beauty Redefined. “But it’s up to the rest of us to take advantage of this bold move. We must start taking steps to transform the message dispelled by other key influencers and reshape how women feel about their own worth in the world.”

I had a chance to interview Seline Shenoy, author of Beauty Redefined, to learn more

Why did you decide to write this book?

My book, Beauty Redefined, is really a labor of love. It’s deeply personal to me because I struggled with body image issues and consequently it affected my confidence in all areas of my life. Even though it was a painful journey, I discovered a lot about myself and it made me conscious about this universal struggle that we women face when it comes to finding our place in this beauty meritocracy and figuring out our sense of worthiness. 

The road to self-love and acceptance is a tricky territory filled with emotional minefields. On realizing this, I felt compelled to write this book in which I share my thoughts and ideas on this issue. It’s my contribution towards the looming revolution of beauty, which I hope will pick up momentum as more and more people become aware of the struggles that the majority of women face today. 

This book is for the modern-day girl and woman who is ready to overcome self-doubt and instigate positive changes in her life so that she can embody a wholehearted and conscious way of living.

Why aren't body positivity movements working?

While there certainly have been numerous praiseworthy past initiatives taken to uplift women and young girls such as the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s and various media campaigns by beauty brands such as Dove, Cover Girl, and Venus by Gillette, to name a few, they have  unfortunately, failed at creating a lasting impression on the majority of the female population because it did not sufficiently empower women to internalize these messages and address the complex underlying moral, educational and cultural issues that are at play in their world.

Deep down, most women are still not convinced of the validity of the “beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes” statement and other cajoling credos of the beauty empowerment movements—none of them reflects on the reality that they witness in the world around them. In some ways, they may be right. 

What helps women feel more positive about themselves?

In my book, Beauty Redefined, I recommend a holistic approach towards overcoming common blocks that prevent women from feeling positive about themselves and cultivating the kind of beauty that is genuine and real. This approach involves all aspects of your being – your mind, your heart, spirit and body. This is a pretty comprehensive model but some of the key points include adopting a more positive mindset and belief system, healing any past emotional trauma or pain with a trained professional, loving your body by giving it the nourishment and care it needs to stay healthy and living your life with a sense of purpose and passion. 

In addition to remove these blocks, I suggest embracing a new perspective beauty which I call the True Beauty principles. To make this new perspective on beauty easier to understand, I created a fictional persona of a woman, which I call a True Beauty (TB) based on the research I’ve done on women in several historical and literary narratives, such as Greek mythology stories and Jane Austen novels. I also studied various behavioral patterns of some of the most successful and happy women in the world to identify the constellation of traits, sensibilities and lifestyle choices that led them to a life of balance, accomplishment and fulfillment.

How can women instill positive self-esteem in their daughters?

Mothers play a crucial role in their daughter’s self-assurance and her self-confidence. Girls pay attention to how their mothers perceive other bodies. Girls also pay attention to how their mothers treat their own body: does she exercise and take of herself? Does she neglect her looks? Is she critical of her own appearance? All of this impacts a young girl deeply because her mother is her first and most influential role model.

A mother needs to be conscious of what she is modeling to her daughter and take responsibility for resolving any past trauma that she might have experienced and dysfunctions that prevent her from modeling healthy behavior patterns especially when it comes to her self-image and body image. 

Another critical thing that she can do is helping her daughter develop an identity that is independent of her physical appearance by encouraging her to get involved in activities that could build her self-confidence such as theater, art or sports. Give her opportunities to express herself through her talents and creativity and acknowledge her efforts. Compliment her on the efforts she is making in both her academic and non-academic endeavors.

It’s also important to make her develop media literacy. Guide her to develop the discernment and a critical eye that can decode and filter the messages from advertisements, as well as celebrity and pop culture. In this way she can develop an objective and impersonal view on the hype and sensationalism in these areas and detach it from her identity and sense of self-worth.

How does poor body image affect women?

There are numerous subtle as well as obvious dysfunctional symptoms that women display when suffering from a poor body image. Some of the common ways that these symptoms surface include a distinct lack of confidence in their personal and professional life, a tendency to attract and stay in abusive relationship, becoming more prone to developing addictive patterns, susceptibility to eating disorders, spending too much time and money on beauty treatments and surgeries, people-pleasing behavior and a lack of good social and relationship skills.

What role does social media play in body image and self worth?

Psychologists have also observed that social media exacerbates the tendency for frequent users to develop a skewed impression of the world which is seldom accurate or healthy. Young girls and women, for example, may develop unrealistic standards when it comes to their looks and bodies based on what they see on social media. But instead of labeling social media as the bad guy, I see it as a double edged sword. The eventual effect that it has on your life really comes down to how you use it and for what purpose. 

If a girl or woman wants to avoid the negative impact that social media could have on her self-image, she need to become more conscious of her media diet. If she’s following social media accounts and blogs run by people and institutions that are shallow and appearance-focused, such as Instagram models and celebrity fashion and gossip related profiles, it can hurt them if they aren’t mindful of its probable impact on them, especially on a subconscious level. 

The negative impact of social media can be avoided if a girl or woman is guided towards adopting a more empowering and all-encompassing standard for beauty which includes all aspects of her being – her intellect, aspirations, passions, talents and her morals. 

How can women recognize poor self-image and address it to improve their self-esteem?

A woman can recognize poor self image if she (or a trusted family member, friend or counselor) notices that she displays one or more of the typical symptoms of someone suffering from this condition.

She can address it by realizing that real beauty is all encompassing – it’s not just about how pretty you look or how slim you are but the kind of person that you are, your character and your compassion for others. She needs to be willing to work on developing herself as an individual and cultivate her talents, passions and even their sense of morals and values. She also has to open up to receiving the help that she needs to heal any past trauma and hurts that have caused her poor self-image.

What are some changes that need to be made on a larger scale to redefine self image?

As a society, we need take the steps needed to empower the contemporary woman so that she feels whole, complete and accomplished even if she doesn’t measure up to the perceived ideal of beauty and own her unique brand of beauty, even if it does not fit within the conventional mold.  I believe that we need to tackle this by igniting a beauty revolution that addresses the issue on both an individual and collective level. 

Dealing with it on an individual level involves making concerted efforts towards bringing about an internal shift within girls and women by educating them on how they can maintain a strong sense of self-worth and develop an identity that’s independent of outward appearances. On a collective level, we need to change the paradigm of beauty by instigating fundamental changes in our education system and the media to develop healthier standards of beauty that draws the focus from a woman’s physical attractiveness to her accomplishments and character. 

If we’re willing to work together, we can transform our distorted and skewed perception of women’s beauty into one that is more healthy and wholesome. When we embody the new standards for beauty, we will convince ourselves and the rest of the world that, as women, we are so much more than our bodies and faces—we are multifaceted individuals with distinct values with numerous gifts to share. 

SELINE SHENOY, author of Beauty Redefined, is a podcast host and life coach who focuses on personal empowerment, self-esteem, productivity, and wellness. As the founder of The Dream Catcher, a blog community that encourages people to live their ideal life, Shenoy’s inspirational message has been attracting thousands of people worldwide since 2014. She is a regular contributor to a variety of publications including Forbes, MindBodyGreen, Elite Daily, Project Happiness, and Global Love Project.

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