Your challenge: Build up, don’t knock down!

I woke up this morning and checked my Facebook feed whilst waiting for my snooze cycle to end. Only what I read angered me so much that I couldn’t stay still for the full 10-minute “bonus rest” and I found myself getting up and pounding out a quick-and-angry reply to the poster. But the anger and rage remained as I went to the kitchen to make my coffee. So today, you get to read a rant. (Yay!!)

My anger wasn’t aimed at my friend, but rather it was the link that she shared about a woman who was mocked by a national women’s magazine. The story, in a nutshell, is that the magazine asked a woman for permission to use a photo of her running a marathon – in a tutu – then mocked her on their pages. The magazine failed to mention that the woman was halfway through chemotherapy for brain cancer and that the tutus are used to raise money for an organisation called Girls on the Run, which is dedicated to encouraging girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident. (Do we see the irony there?) No, they didn’t bother to show the good side, they just mocked someone for being a little bit different.

That magazine was SELF Magazine – yes, I am going to name-and-shame – and they should be ashamed of themselves for their constant “build ‘em up; knock ‘em down” attitude. Although it’s not just SELF, it’s an industry-wide infestation of passive-aggressive cruelty. (I’m not hyperlinking them as punishment for their meanness. How’s that for passive-aggressive?)

[Note: I am happy to be told I am wrong. If you know of a women’s magazine that only builds up, and never knocks down, please do let me know. I might become a women’s magazine reader again if I can find that rare gem!]

What I want to know is why we’re accepting this mocking? Why are we reading these magazines that laugh at our fellow women (our fellow human beings!) and allowing it to continue? What happened to encouraging words? What happened to letting everyone express themselves? Who does it help to be so harsh and judgemental?

Let’s face it, none of us – not even the supermodels – have perfect bodies. Many of us have hair that won’t behave or nails that just won’t grow. And very few of us have the finances to buy the latest and greatest fashions.

We are all imperfect. We all walk through this world wishing something was different. We wish we were a different weight. We wish we didn’t have bingo wings. We wish we didn’t have that little pooch on our tummies. We wish we weren’t blind without our glasses. We wish our skin tone was more even.

We wish that we were able to buy better-fitted clothing – or even just new clothing for those of us who wear second-hand garments. We wish that the latest style worked with our body types. We wish that we could wear shirts that didn’t exaggerate our post-motherhood bodies. We wish that we could wear clothes that hid our physical scars from our various histories.

We wish, we wish, we wish.

And we do it, in part, because we’re afraid of what others will think about us; because we’ve been told we’re not good enough as-is.

And then, we look at other women around us and we start thinking about all of their flaws. And maybe we even point them out (to them or the woman next to us). And then, as the cycle is confirmed as “normal”, the catty, bitchy, cruel judgement continues.

Here’s the deal: Just because you don’t like the look of an outfit, doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t wear it. Just because you aren’t comfortable with your muffin top (I hate that phrase!) hanging out, doesn’t mean you can mock someone who doesn’t mind their MT being on show. Just because you wouldn’t dream of wearing denim with denim, doesn’t make it OK to criticise someone else who likes the look.

I’m not saying that we should complement and praise people on things we don’t like, I’m just saying maybe we should stop mocking and teasing them for it.

So let’s try something new. Let’s try to accept others as they are – flaws and all – and be kind to those around us. Let’s try to find something positive to say about our fellow human beings instead of something negative to say.

For SELF, this could have been: Here’s a woman running a marathon in a tutu. We smiled/laughed at the sight of a silly outfit, but we sure do admire her for getting out and running 26.2 miles. Wow, what a woman! (Because smiling at a fun/silly outfit is OK; mocking and being mean about it isn’t!)

I fully admit that I sometimes have mocking thoughts when I see people whose appearance isn’t what I would consider acceptable (for whatever reasons). But then I feel guilty about it and I try to think of the good things about them.

Example: Yesterday I saw a larger 20-something woman walking down the street with a very, interesting, outfit, complete with torn stockings. My first thought was “Ouch, you ought not to be wearing that in public”, but then I stopped myself because she looked happy. And I remembered that I, myself, was wearing an outfit that I love but that others would likely mock. She was just being her like I was just being me. And then I started wondering where I could find a pair of shorts like she was wearing. (Sans torn tights; that’s not my style.)

My challenge to you – my plea for you – is that you try to build up, rather than knockdown. I challenge you to change the way you think about others; change the way you judge the look of others. When those mean and snarky thoughts pop into your head, stop for a moment and think about how you would feel if someone mocked you. Then think about the positive aspects of that person. Maybe it’s their confidence for being about to walk around in that outfit. Maybe it’s their ability to be comfortable with their imperfect body. Maybe it’s their smile or their laugh or their sheer presence. Whatever it is, there’s something positive. Just look and you’ll find it!

Then, after we’ve all got used to finding the positive in others, we’ll start finding the positive in ourselves. And maybe once we start to accept the good things about each other, we can stop knocking each other down.

What do you think? Will you take up my challenge?

4 Replies to “Your challenge: Build up, don’t knock down!”

  1. Challenge accepted! I know just what you mean about catty comments. I am guilty of making them myself even though I hate the feeling of being judged by others. So, I will try to be nicer and more accepting of others and I will hope others are more accepting of me.

    Thanks for the rant! I like it when you get on the soapbox!

    1. Aw, see I knew I could count on you to join me in changing the world! (I do love to be on my soapbox; I just try not to do it here too often. That’s what the forums are for!) 🙂

  2. I visited the website and discovered that, along with hundreds of other likeminded publications, the quality of its journalism isn’t really its selling point. I’m not exactly sure what its selling point is, but there is obviously quite a healthy market for quality articles such as:

    20 Superfoods for weight loss
    6 Moves to resize your butt and thighs
    5 simple steps to cellulite-free skin
    7 moves to a better backside

    It basically joins many other publications in turning a coin by commenting on “What’s in/What’s out”, how exactly you might sculpt your body to fit in what’s in, and pointing a mocking finger at those it thinks should know better.

    Therefore, in terms of what society finds acceptable from within its pages, it seems to me that the only error it made (not for the first or last time) was in terms of journalistic rigour rather than premeditated malice.

    I’d suggest that this whole outburst of righteous indignation indicates that really our society is completely on board with mocking the perceived “able bodied/minded”. We simply choose to make ourselves feel better about it with regular outbursts of rage when a pretty straightforward and low-risk (to us) scapegoat is identified (SELF in this case).

    In support of this (if anything other than a flick through their latest issue was needed), I Googled “SELF tutu “. I honestly couldn’t find an item which was outraged on behalf of the “female marathon runner” rather than the “cancer survivor”. Actually I tell a lie, I did find one which was outraged on behalf of the much maligned tutu.

    How do we change things? I note that finally the fashion industry has gallantly decided “plus size” women can be beautiful too. The change wasn’t brought about by a new aesthetic sense, nor by “larger” women marching the streets while promising not to judge each other. It was brought about simply because a woman who wears a size 16 has to spend her money on a size 16, regardless of what the people at tell her to do.

    1. I think that many people are on board with mocking the able-bodied, which is part of my problem with these magazines – and with the attitude in general.

      I’m not saying I’m perfect, as I do have those mocking thoughts, but I like to think that I am getting better at it and I’ve honestly gone as far as stopping myself when I have those thoughts about others. In part because I know that I’m a bit weird and quirky myself, and I don’t want to complain about people mocking me whilst I mock others. I still have some work to do on my own bad habits.

      I like that they’re starting to use models from a range of body shapes, and I was really excited to see M&S start using models who are older or who have some sort of imperfection (missing limbs, repaired cleft pallets). Real women are not perfect and I think we need to be reminded of that – and assured that it’s OK!

      And I do believe that part of making it OK is for us to stop mocking others and start accepting ourselves – warts, scars, and all!

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