The Disease of Perfection

Project Beyoncé body has commenced for 2015! One of my goals for this year is to get back in shape. I needed to refocus on my fitness after a busy campaign season that created an estranged relationship between myself and the Louisville Athletic Club. I confess that I had not been happy about the lack of muscle tone I saw daily in the mirror.

I set goals for everything I do; fitness is no different. Thinking about my goals, I realized that the nature of why I desired to appear a certain way in the mirror was destructive. Through my interactions with women in the healthcare setting and my own circle of friends, it struck me that most women are not happy with their bodies. As women, we have not fully embraced the reality that there is beauty in imperfection.

In 2014, Glamour Magazine surveyed over 300 women of all sizes across the United States. Each woman was asked to journal every negative or anxious thought she had about her body throughout the course of one full day. Glamour reports that 97% of the women surveyed admitted to having at least one “I hate my body” moment during the day. Although it is not hard to believe, the percentage shocked me.

After living much of my life as a beauty queen and model, I am wholly aware that we are constantly bombarded with images of how we should look. The Huffington Post reported in 2014 that “150 years ago, most women didn’t see any photographs of other women, much less a daily barrage of photoshopped advertisements.” Although we are privy to the art of photo editing, we still compare ourselves to these images. Many times, while speaking to groups of girls, I have used myself as an example. I’ve participated in photo shoots for many publications and when I saw the published photos, I almost didn’t recognize myself. Other times I was comically horrified about how hot the rest of the world would now think my legs are. Although I looked great, it wasn’t real. Herein lies the dilemma … when we don’t measure up to these unrealistic images, we are labeled “unattractive,” “inadequate” or “less than.” We internalize this and succumb to yoyo dieting or develop eating disorders aspiring to be thin instead of healthy.

We must stop comparing ourselves to both the unreal media images of women as well as the women we see daily that society deems “perfect” or “beautiful.” Each of us is built differently, yet beautifully. We all tend to want a particular feature that we do not have. I think that is natural. For example, I have always had and have been self-conscious of my thick thighs. The women in my family call them “thunder thighs,” and as a teenager, I thought that was not cute! I shied away from shorts (except of course the long ones I wore for basketball) and covered my legs at all costs. I always wished they were smaller, leaner and less bulky. But one day, I received the greatest compliment. Prior to my 2010 Miss Black USA competition, my state director informed me that I was often referred to as “Beyoncé legs.” Apparently, this was my code name! You all already know the love I have for Beyoncé, so this was a badge of honor. I realized that I needed to embrace my body for what it was instead of aspiring to transform it into something it is not and will never be. I am committed to doing my best to remain healthy and physically fit. Beauty is not a particular size. There is no prototype.

Considering my experiences and the Glamour survey, let’s continue to shed light on negative body image. When a woman is not happy with the way her body looks, it incites negative thinking. This negative thinking causes us to take less care of ourselves, which further impacts how we look, how we think we look and our self-esteem. All of these things ultimately affect how we interact with others. Ladies, it affects our moods each day (as if we need more than hormones). Negative thinking literally impacts our entire lives.

I suggest that we shift our focus from trying to pattern ourselves after media images, to health and wellness. I can admire Beyoncé’s body because she is in great shape and use that as motivation to get myself in great shape, without the dysfunctional thought that I need to transform my body into hers to be beautiful. It’s great to have goals. My goal is to be in good enough shape to prance around Louisville in a unitard and high heels without worrying about the dimples in my legs!

Let’s not define ourselves by our cellulite. Miss, embrace your body. Strive to be a better and healthier YOU every day. After all, you are #Flawless.