By Renae Regehr, More to Her
When you hear the words ‘Victoria Secret Fashion Show,’ what happens? Does your confidence slowly start to erode? Do you feel inspired after seeing the models strut the runway? Or, maybe you cringe at the idea of hearing all the self-body shaming that occurs on social media the day before and after?
The annual VS Fashion Show is fast approaching and with it comes an opportunity to address some important issues and share some tips on how to avoid feeling the VS confidence blues after the show is over.
While most of us like to feel beautiful, a desire that considered perfectly healthy, the VS fashion show like so many other ‘celebrations’ of women emits the message that sexuality and physical attractiveness are some of the most prized qualities a woman can have.
This is problematic because as the American Psychological Association states, when women consistently view other women depicted in narrow ways (e.g. tall, toned, big breasts, tanned, young) we can be negatively impacted; aside from reinforcing narrow attitudes and beliefs about femininity, negative impacts can include an increase in anxiety, preoccupation with the body, eating disorders and overall decrease in satisfaction with life.
A study published in the journal of Sex Roles found that adolescent girls who viewed sexualized media, internalized societal beauty ideals more often, which led to them valuing their appearance over being competent at a skill! Tragic.
Nevertheless, we must face the reality that in the coming years the show ‘will go on’ and therefore we need to figure out ways that we can protect ourselves.
Here are some practical and simple ways to counteract internalizing narrow appearance pressure ideas:
1. Be the example to others that women can be both beautiful and intelligent
We often fail to consider that younger girls are watching us to see how we respond to other depictions of women in media. If we want girls to grow up confident and valuing their internal characteristics, then we need to demonstrate how to value not only our bodies but all of who we are. Each of us has female friends who are skilled at things pertaining to business, athletics, academics, fashion etc. Accordingly, we need to compliment and encourage women in areas that are attributable to their inner characteristics and talents. We can filter and challenge cultural standards of conventional beauty so that younger generations grow up with a broader conceptualization of what beautiful means.
Over the next day we would encourage you to make a list of compliments that highlight someone’s personality or skillset. As watering soil stimulates growth of a plant, encouragement about a person’s inner attributes can motivate and inspire a person to develop their potential.
2. Realize you too can have the same confidence and power that the VS angel models exude in whatever endeavor you decide to pursue.
While casting the girls, Collection Creative Director Sophia Neophitou says, “It’s all about ‘Do they have the confidence, the power to captivate you in that moment when they are projecting themselves to one thousand people in the audience and the millions of people that are going to watch them on T.V.?’”
Most psychologists would argue that confidence can be learned, and that essentially you can fake it until you make it. Or in this case, fake it till you feel confident. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in her Ted Talk the power of body language; if you stand tall, look people in the eye, and raise your voice while you speak, you will not only feel confident but will be powerfully captivating to the person you are talking too.
While we could all take a lesson in confidence from the VS Angels this still doesn’t diminish the original problem that the girls are being celebrated primarily for their bodies.
So what is the bottom line?
What we invest our energy into will influence us. Whether you decided to watch the VS Fashion Show or not this year, just remember to keep a critical mind. If watching the VS fashion show makes you want to shame yourself, next year do something that makes you feel good. Read a book or learn something new. Challenge yourself to grow in a way that does not solely focus on your physical appearance.
Remember that (a) your beauty should never be the sole focus of who you are and (b) you can learn to become a confident, beautiful and intelligent woman in whatever you decide to do – be it engineer, designer, or homemaker. We, as women, are so much more than our physical beauty and we need to keep reminding each other of that!