A lesson from Paris about beauty
Feb 09, 2020
I'm going to get a bit personal here, so buckle up... :) I'm living in Paris these days because my partner is going to work here for a couple of months. For those of you who don't know me: I'm originally a belgian, (yeah chocolate) but a year ago I made the beautiful Portuguese countryside my home together with my love. It was easy to fall in love with the yoga pants, beach and sea kinda lifestyle, the fresh air and the overwhelming presence of nature are a true luxury. But being back in a city environment has sparked some thinking ... Changing environments always challenges me and shows me the cracks in my Mind.
It's no secret that Paris is the capital of beauty... If you think about Paris, I think we can all muster up a vision of an elegant french lady walking quickly on high heels past the Haussman buildings, accordeon tunes in the background. Everything here seems to be done elegantly: walking, talking, aging, eating,... And it was fascinating how my mind from day 1 went down yeaaars to the past, automatically.
"You need to buy new clothes, you can't wear those summer shorts here because everybody is thinner than you, why don't you cover up that red spot on your forehead, did somebody notice your pants are a bit tighter today? etc"
Ugh, it felt horrible, so restricting! I could feel the tension it created in my body, I could feel the negativity bottling up, almost succeeding in making me feel guilty about eating that 'crêpe'... Almost seducing me in thinking that I should be eating salad for dinner tonight (which is a big no-no in intuitive eating) . So what happened??
Before arriving here I thought I had done all the body work and was pretty 'free': I literally couldn't care much about how I looked, I went for coffees in sweatpants and the only reason why I would put on makeup or make a dress-effort was when I really wanted to, for my own enjoyment, not to desperately "live up to standards".
But suddenly here in Paris, it didn't feel safe anymore to just be me, the imperfect authentic me was so different from what I saw...That feeling was so constraining, I compared it to wearing a corset in the 1900's.
It's like you're walking around, desperately trying to hide the human side of you, squeezing it into something tighter, more uncomfortable. The visual cues around you convinced you that you, just you, authentically (I mean, farts, leg hair and bad days included) are not worth much...
Because the difference was so big with how I felt back home, I was very aware of these thoughts and I succeeded in observing them without believing them. I didn't buy new clothes, I left my red spot as is, I ate whatever I felt like eating and I didn't listen to the guilt-trip voice in my mind, I REFUSED to put on the corset of Paris, I REFUSED to try and blend in.
I showed up just like me, and when you get past the slightly scary phase - of thinking you won't be loved/appreciated/fit in, of feeling and being vulnerable- , the freedom you gain is PRICELESS. And the magic is that, when you do that, you automatically attract people in your life who will love you just for who you are, leg-hair and needy days included, people with whom you don't need to pretend to be anybody else than yourself. I don't know about you, but I don't tolerate people I can't be myself with any longer.
I know that 5 years ago, I was walking around with an invisible corset and most women are walking around with one every.single.day. It's exhausting, it robs you from your Joy and from your energy to make your dreams come true.
And it's not our fault, we're born and bred into that corset... 95% of the bodies we see in the media show only 5% of body diversity. And if you add to that the fact that visual cues have a HUGE impact on our brains, we cannot help but conclude we are different from those 5% and we cannot help but conclude our life would be better if we would be similar, because they seem to be having all the fame and recognition...Don't they?
It is a TRAP, based on LIES and any woman who has been overweight and then thin can tell you: being thin doesn't make you happy and successful... You're the same woman with the same negative emotions and mind-twists, only now you wear a different size. The truth is that success , love and happiness is available to you at ANY size, no matter how you look. Being thin/beautiful is not the ticket to a meaningful life, and trying to be thin/beautiful at all cost actually is a surefire way to end up un-happy and un-successful.
It is one of the meaningless pursuits society sells us, right up there with having the big house, the fanciest car, the biggest pay check, the most beautiful dress. We all know money makes things easier but it doesn't make you happy if you weren't so before. In exactly the same way, we tend to pursue thinness as a solution to life, whereas being thin may make things easier but it's not the core of your being, it won't make you happy if you are not already happy now.
First the Joy and the rest will naturally flow...
Besides the fact that beauty and thinness are treacherous goals, with promises of happiness they can't make true, the emphasis put on looks is at the core of what makes us go crazy around food...
"Without all this pressure on our looks, nobody would be going crazy around food... When your self-worth is dependant on your weight and beauty, the pressure you put on your food choices is HUGE, it is creating a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode in compulsive eating. "
"At the heart of our story with food, our overeating, our bingeing lies the overwhelming need to be 'Beautiful'. Beauty has become the pre-condition for success, love and happiness in our minds. This thought is actually the modern day equivalent of wearing a corset in the 1900's. Do you still want to wear that? We are constantly comparing our authentic, vulnerable selves to somebody else's mask of perfection. What if we all, collectively decided to just show up vulnerable, without mask? What if we burn our corsets?..