Authenticity, Beauty, Marketing

How Being True to Ourselves is Unfashionable

If I were an Old Testament style prophet, one thing I’d rail against would be fashion.  No, I wouldn’t be against beautiful designer dresses.  I’d save my rants for body fashions.

Given my taste for outrageous behavior, it would probably give me way too much pleasure to go about the streets of Jerusalem in sackcloth and ashes crying to strangers that a wrathful God will send wolves against the city if the grown women of Jerusalem don’t at once cease from starving themselves into shapes only natural for a newly minted adolescent.

I doubt I get the job, though.  The only slots open for Old Testament style prophets these days seem to be reserved for railing against comparatively trivial things — like homosexuality, evolution, or premarital sex.  *sigh*  Gone are the days when prophets had vision.

Sometime ago, a brilliant but cynical 14 year old girl with a Reubanesque figure befriended me.  One evening we had the following brief exchange:

She: “I’ll never have a boyfriend.”

Me: “Are you kidding?  You’re smart, witty, and fit — Pretty soon I’ll have to beat the boys off you with a stick.”

She:  “No you won’t.  I don’t have a fashionable figure, and that’s all that matters.”

Maybe it was the way she said it — with so much more gravity than her years.  Or, maybe it was the kernel of truth in what she said.  In either case, her words have stuck with me.  She had a large, unfashionable figure, but she was fit and healthy.   What more than health and fitness should the fashion industry demand of us?

There are all sorts of reasons to oppose the fashion industry’s narrow ideal of beauty.  But the reason that might someday prompt me to don sackcloth and ashes is this:  You spend years trying to instill confidence and self-respect in a kid.  Then along comes this alien grinding machine — the fashion industry — and all it is willing to do is grind away at that confidence and self-respect, leaving the kid setback and doubting herself.

I’m of the opinion the most valuable happiness comes from our being true to ourselves.  When we have found that happiness from being true to ourselves, our confidence and self-respect become firmly established.

Yet, all too often, society throws up unnecessary obstacles to being true to ourselves.  The fashion industry is very much a case in point: It’s insistence on only a narrow ideal of beauty unsuited to many people insidiously undermines the notion of being true to yourself, and with it, the happiness that comes from that.   May the Assyrian wolves descend upon it!

12 thoughts on “How Being True to Ourselves is Unfashionable”

  1. Paul:
    You have demonstrated to a nicety why individualism is so important a tool for self-esteem and happiness. If you see yourself through the eyes of society, you will be as dysfunctional as society itself.
    A sense of self and with it, a truthfulness to it, is a permanent platform where a soul should perform its best music.

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  2. Found you via David Rochester, via The Individual Voice…

    Had to leave a comment on this, but I don’t know the HTML for .

    🙂

    Now, off to read more…

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  3. Well, how about that — when I typed…

    “…don’t know the HTML for ‘jumping up and down in vigorous agreement’.”

    …(only having put the phrase within single quotes above inside HTML carat marks) the lil’ post-a-code robot decided I actually wrote HTML, decided it was illegible, and simply disappeared what fell between the carats.

    I learn something new every day about these ‘bots.

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  4. @Rambodoc: “If you see yourself through the eyes of society, you will be as dysfunctional as society itself.” Damn, but that’s a great point well made!

    Thank you, Rambodoc! That was both brilliant and fruitful! I think you just made my day.

    @Loriaustex: Hello and welcome to the blog! 🙂

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  5. Hey Paul.
    The tyranny of “cool”, i believe it’s called. In some ways i can’t think of a worse tyranny since it’s one we voluntarily impose on ourselves and (for most) accept without questioning.

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  6. Hi Nezha! “Tyranny” is a good word for it. For like all tyrannies, it tends to alienate us from ourselves. But the bayonet has been replaced by the advertising and marketing department.

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  7. Paul, another WordPress peculiarity is that any comments within those slash marks renders it to be labeled as spam or held for moderation. So Loriautex’ comment could still be there….
    Thanks.

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  8. You know I do wholeheartedly agree that the fashion industry, so shallow an art with so deep an effect, has affected so many so badly but…despite its increasing influence, I also think we live in the best of times as far as individuals being categorized as attractive. This melange of styles that composes modern fashion, the so many different ways of being cool, means that more people that ever before can “look good”. You can be hot retro, hot punk, hot high style, etc, you can even be hot idiosyncratic. Media wise its bad, and a lot of people are feeling the pressure but at street level a lot more than before know they are the bee’s knees.

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  9. I think it would be helpful if being true to oneself could encompass not paying attention to the media. I am quite true to myself; I never watch television, I don’t read magazines or take in any form of mainstream media. As a result, I don’t have much of a sense of what is fashionable.

    I think that one key component to raising emotionally healthy kids is to teach them that beauty and fashion are industries that make money by enslaving women. Refusal to buy into that enslavement is essential to staying sane. Aos is right, that real life is different from media standards, though of course there are plenty of shallow men who buy into those ideals … just as there are plenty of shallow women who want a man of a certain height and hair endowment. But my point is that we can’t be influenced by what we don’t buy into.

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  10. @Rambodoc: Thanks for the tip! In this case, it was no longer being held for moderation. But that’s a useful thing to know for the future.

    @AOS: Good points! I suspect, like you, that our world is overall moving towards a recognition and acceptance of diversity — not just in fashion, but in so many things. If so, I’m all for it. But I believe I’ve noticed a backlash against the acceptance of diversity, too.

    @David: So true! By the way, I gave up television, also. There are some good programs on the air, but so much of it is just a waste of my time. So I know longer own a TV, and I’ve been happier for it.

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  11. I agree with you. A popular culture that ridicules Jennifer Love Hewitt for being fat has some serious issues. Sheesh.

    But while women like to accuse a male-dominated culture of instituting these “rules,” I have to say that I don’t see that as the case. Most of the magazines that champion this guant standard of beauty are edited and read by women, after all, and it’s my experience that woman are a good deal more cruel to one another than men are to them when it comes to appearance. As a gender, modern American women seem to have a kind of collective anorexia going on.

    I wonder why more women can’t adapt the attitude of someone like Queen Lativa, for example, who is utterly comfortable with her Rubinesque body, and is hence quite beautiful.

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  12. Hi Mystic! I agree with you that women are their own worse enemies when it comes to the tyranny they impose on themselves via fashion. I don’t know why that is, but it certainly seems to be the case.

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