You may have heard about the Dove Choose Beautiful Campaign. They surveyed 6,400 women ages 18-64 in 5 cities around the world (San Francisco, Shanghai, Delhi, London, and São Paolo) and came up with some heartbreaking statistics. One in particular really has me thinking.
Only 4% of women describe themselves as beautiful. That means 96% do not think they are beautiful. Dove has presented this as a sad statistic that leaves room for a lot of improvement, and I wholeheartedly agree, but I think I see some other things in that statistic that I’d like to discuss with you.
As a heterosexual man, I feel like beautiful women are a dime a dozen. I see beautiful women absolutely everywhere I go. This is especially true when we replace the word “beautiful” with “attractive”, or even “very attractive”, because attraction is SO much more than just physical beauty. But even if we’re just talking about physical beauty, beautiful women are so common a sight that there is absolutely nothing remarkable about encountering them. I am positive that I am an average man in regards to this opinion. Every male friend I have ever had would certainly agree. I find it sad that if you are a woman reading this right now, you are VERY likely to be thinking, “Okay, that may be true, but he’s not talking about me.” Ugh. To think of my daughters ending up feeling like that gives me a pit in my stomach.
Considering the ubiquitous nature of beauty among women, how can only 4% believe they are beautiful? Obviously this isn’t a physical problem, it’s a psychological problem. Bodies aren’t broken, thoughts are.
So, what is the proper solution, weight loss or mindfulness? Diet and exercise are intended to fix bodies – a physical problem – and we just established that this is useless without a head change because women will simply continue to exclude themselves from the beautiful club. And this brings me to my real point.
Women the world over are at war with their bodies. They are using anxiety and self loathing as tools to try to create beauty. They are bearing the cross of the miserable things they “must” do in order to turn themselves into something that the world will finally approve of. Their extrinsic motivations make them hate the process and they derail themselves at regular intervals, yo-yo dieting their way into something that looks nothing like success, but very much like hopelessness and depression.
And where are all the winners?
Trying to find a woman over 30 who has never tried to change the shape of her body is like trying to find a unicorn. It’s barely an exaggeration to say, “Everyone is doing it.” Yet, it’s crystal clear that nearly nobody ever gets “there”.
If only 4% of women describe themselves as beautiful, and if some percentage of those have probably always felt that way, then less than 4% of women are finding success when “success” is defined as “happy with her body”.
Again, this is not about bodies. This is about heads.
In my old gym, I trained a very insecure woman for a short time who HATED her legs. One day, she said to me, “I wish my legs looked like hers,” and she gestured to a long time client of mine who we will call Mary. I walked this women over to Mary and asked, “Hey Mary, what do you think of your legs?” Without a moment of hesitation, Mary said, “I’ve never liked them. They’re too bulky.” Walking away with the woman, she said to me, “She’s crazy! I’d love to have legs like hers.”
When I talk about extrinsic motivations, I usually say something like, “I dare you to show me a woman who hated the way her body looked, then changed the way her body looked, and then suddenly loved herself. That woman does not exist.”
Whenever I say this, I always know that many women are hearing it and thinking, “Those women are crazy! I know I will be happy if I can just get down to my ideal size.”
If you have ever had a thought like that, PLEASE understand that you are lying to yourself. Changing the shape of bodies does not change the shape of thoughts. Dove has given us proof of this. Let’s review.
Beautiful women are everywhere.
Everybody is at war with her body.
Only 4% of women believe they are beautiful.
If you are like the majority of women I have worked with, you can probably look back to a time in your past when you had a body shape that you wish you could get back to now, yet you didn’t even like it back then.
“This time will be different, Jason! I really will be happy if I lose weight this time!”
Nobody is winning.
Why? Because you are fighting the wrong fight. Find an intrinsic motivation, stop looking into the eyes of strangers to see if you are beautiful, get REALLY healthy because you deserve to treat yourself with love and compassion, and I can promise you that you will win. The head change is not easy, but SO worth it. And this can’t be done any other way. Now you have proof of that fact.
Please do me a favor and share this with the women you love. There’s a better way and the needless suffering must stop.