Still want to look better?

 

People always ask me what to do when they consciously believe certain things about their body (like that all bodies are good bodies, and a person’s value has nothing to do with how they look), but then still want, on a deep-down level, to have the kind of body our society celebrates — they want a “status symbol” kind of body.

So here’s the deal:

Just because you’re trying to dismantle body oppression inside yourself doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly stop craving the ego-boosting dopamine hit of working toward/having a higher social status.

Craving a burst of validation via social ranking is normal. Everyone is susceptible to different versions of this craving, based on our identity, community, experience, personality, and position on various body hierarchies (ie: age, gender, race, body size, etc.), but we are all susceptible to wanting and enjoying it.

Maybe instead of wanting to be thin, you find yourself lusting after a Rolex watch, fancy sports car, a dream home, or a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes. Maybe you daydream about getting rich, getting a boob job, getting jacked, or finding a young “trophy” partner. There are many ways in which we try to exploit various social hierarchies in order to enjoy the benefits and validation that it brings us, often without even realizing it!

Now, I’m not saying that this is inherently a bad thing.

Personally, while I’ve extensively challenged and rejected a lot of the social and appearance norms femmes are expected to conform to, I still usually shave my armpits, keep my hair long, and wear tinted lip balm. Each of these could be rightfully called an attempt to climb a micro-hierarchy in an effort to gain social status! But I’ve let my body hair grow or shaved my head at different times in my life, and honestly doing these things just feels…. easier. Like, I have other shit to use my courage and defiance on.
 

We don’t always have the space to deal with how it feels to transgress every single gender and beauty rule every day. *shrug*

I would say “I’m doing all this stuff for me!” but if you read my work a lot you already know that this common defense isn’t exactly real. Of course I could be doing it for me, that’s the point. Anything that improves our social status is for us, in some way. For example, a woman who loves to wear tons of makeup and dress very sexy might say “it’s just for me because I deserve to feel my best!”

But what that really means is “it’s for me to elevate my social status because I like the feeling having an elevated social status gives me!”

I’m certainly not here to judge anyone for their actions (everyone has complete bodily autonomy as far as I’m concerned) but when I hear things like that I can’t help but think about how people aren’t in any way aware of what they’re doing.

Rarely do we see someone who says “I dress this way for me, because I like to feel my best!” about dressing in an octopus costume, or with horror and gore makeup on.

Why don’t those things make most people feel “their best”? Because they don’t bring about an elevated social status, or increased social privileges. (In fact I can think of several situations in which dressing that way would significantly decrease a person’s social status and make them face more obstacles throughout their day than they otherwise would have, which is maybe why we don’t typically choose to do it.)

Instead, we are naturally drawn to the opposite — presenting ourselves in ways that make our lives easier and better; ways that increase our social privileges, open doors, avoid difficulties, and  make people treat us more kindly.

This is an area I encourage you to explore for yourself.

Only you can tell the difference between wanting something “for yourself” and wanting it because it increases your social status, and the truth is that most things are somewhere in between. After all, I definitely brush my teeth for me, but also I would be pretty embarrassed to go out in public if I stopped brushing my teeth because dental hygiene is a micro-hierarchy and my social status would decrease.

If I hadn’t been conditioned to believe that teeth-brushing was socially acceptable and desirable though (and nobody else on earth did it) would I still do it for myself? It’s hard to know.

Get curious about your urges for anything that increases your social status, or is likely to bring you more approval, acceptance, respect, attention, or belonging by moving you closer to the top of any social hierarchy.

Pay attention to which hierarchy you’re attempting to socially climb, and consider who is at the bottom of each of those, how they are affected by it, and how your social-climbing might reinforce this.

That said, sometimes elevating and enjoying your social status and power can feel deliciously fun and pleasurable — after all, we are wired for connection and belonging, and it feels damn good when people notice and praise us. So I want to be very clear: there’s nothing wrong with you for wanting or even enjoying the hit of dopamine that comes from this.

It can be fun to flaunt a hard-earned gym body, or feel like a knockout when dressed up with your hair and makeup done. It can feel great to drive around in a fancy sports car, or wear a symbol of your hard-earned financial success around your wrist. It can be satisfying to have people fawn over your weight loss or big firm butt, and it can feel wonderful to walk into a room and know that all eyes are on you.

We humans are naturally drawn to things we find beautiful, and if you happen to fit the current standards for what everyone has been conditioned to find beautiful, you will undoubtedly find yourself getting a lot of attention. If you enjoy that, that’s ok! So let go of the guilt. Be mindful of and curious about exactly what brings you pleasure, but you don’t need to try to stop feeling the pleasure. It doesn’t make me a bad person, it’s just a totally normal leftover programming from the way you were conditioned.
 

Just notice the role chasing an increased social status plays in the things/goals you’re drawn to and craving, and be mindful about why that is and how that impacts you.

Clients sometimes ask me  “am I still allowed to wear makeup??” or say “I know you don’t approve of diets but…”

I always land back at curiosity, consciousness, and compassion in this discussion. There is no need to judge anyone as right or wrong or good or bad here, but there is a lot of room for more mindfulness, honesty, and liberation work.

Just stay curious and conscious, tuned into how you feel, what your unconscious beliefs about yourself are, and how your behavior affects you before, during, and after. 

If you splurge on a new item and feel disappointed and empty after, that might be an indication that you were just attempting to fill a void or get an emotional need met with your purchase. If you dress up sexy in order to catch your partner’s attention and fall apart when they don’t notice, that’s a dead giveaway that you were trying to indirectly “earn” your worthiness for intimacy, attention, or love.

Pay attention to those things, and remember that you are a part of a system, not just an individual — your choices affect more than just you. Listen when people at the bottom of every social hierarchy speak, and believe them.

Then remember to have compassion and non-judgement for everyone else who is navigating the same fucked up system you are, and making the best choices for themselves that they can. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that you and you alone have figured out which things are ok to perpetuate, and which aren’t, and be careful not to justify or defend your choices for arbitrary reasons.

When you approach things like this with curiosity and consciousness, there is no judgment to be found, only new insight and understanding.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

<3
Jessi

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