Victoria’s Secret: What Have You Done with Our Bodies? 56


A few months back I came across an ad from Victoria’s Secret. Ten models, dressed in skimpy bras and panties with the caption:

The Perfect Body.

Wow.

So, this is what beauty looks like (as told by the expert on beauty, Victoria’s Secret). I have since learned that Victoria’s Secret changed the name of their campaign to “A Body for Every Body” — even though the ten models on that layout didn’t resemble ten of my friends.

Which one of those was my body on the layout? 

I must have been standing in the back behind the skinny, shiny legs of the models…or maybe they accidentally photoshopped me out.

Where is my body? I cry to the winds of outrage. 

Victoria must have been listening to her iPod because she didn’t hear me. I know because I passed her store about 50 times when shopping this Christmas season and I didn’t see my body there either.

I have misplaced my body, Victoria. Do you know where it is?

This must be her real secret:

Victoria's Secret is Out 1

I had to take a few deep breaths before clicking off the absurd advertisement. 

 

You see, this isn’t the first time I have come face-to-face with my own body image issues.

I remember being an only girl and weight wasn’t much of an issue in my nearly all-male household (except during my brothers’ wrestling season), but I had cousins.

You know, the kind of cousins that are infinitely more petite and casually cool that you will ever be. I remember one relative, who apparently thought that saying: “Elizabeth! Look at how much you have grown! Have you gained weight?” was a compliment to one already insecure young woman who was constantly comparing herself to those cousins. You know, those perfect ones who were running around in their cheerleading outfits with their skinny legs and boy-short haircuts. You see, in my 13-year-old mind, I would never compare. I was the uncool cousin who was socially awkward and had “football” legs.

I didn’t even know what football legs were, but in my developing brain, they couldn’t possibly be cool. And, they certainly weren’t skinny.

 

Fast forward many years. I thought I had worked through many of my body image issues. I am older and wiser now. This is one issue I feel so strongly about, and I have worked hard to teach my own daughters what beauty is and be an example for them.

I thought…

 

But, let me tell you one more story:

I have two five-year-old daughters. One day more recently, I walked into their room when they were having a little chat about mommies. Out of the blue, one of them tells me:

“So-and-so’s mommy is prettier than you are, mom.” 

Ah. 

Breath catches. And, for a flick of a moment, I am back to being that awkward 13-year-old holding a bucket of insecurity on her sturdy football legs.

How. Did. This. Happen?

 

On this particularly bad day, I close the door to my bedroom and cry several non-pretty little tears on my white pillowcase. Luckily, we have a sleep number bed that is strong enough to manage the weight of the insecurities and the football legs – and pillowcases are washable.

Deep breaths.

 

You see. It isn’t about me being the pretty mom. Well, it may be a smidgen about that, but really…it’s not.

It is all the other little things…

How can I teach my daughters that real beauty isn’t about size or shape?

How do I teach them that the number on the scale isn’t the number that values your worth?

How do I prevent them from believing the Victoria’s Secret ads, the television commercials, and all the other terrifyingly unrealistic images of women they are bombarded with daily through the media?

How do I teach them that nice clothes and some lipstick don’t truly make you beautiful?

Or how do I prevent the belief that to be valuable as a woman you must be physically attractive according to “media standards”?

Because, if they believe that, then naturally they will be led to the belief that they are in a constant competition with every other woman in the world.

Which means that eventually my two daughters will start competing with each other.

 

How do I teach them the real definition of beauty in this media-heavy, photoshopped, make-believe world of thin-perfection?

And, how can I teach them that when I struggle with my own insecurities?

You see, all these add up to one big question:

How can I teach my daughters they are enough? 

Oh, Crud!

 The heaviness of the power of media, the absurdity that Victoria’s Secret actually has the secret to beauty and the perfect body, and the weight of my own inner struggle with beauty seemed overwhelming.

  

Until I came to myself.

I remembered something that I learned, not only with my head, but with my entire being. It’s the kind of lesson that makes your fingers tingle it’s so powerful. I may have forgotten it  for a moment, but it came back with such force that it made my insides shake.

I am enough

You see, I know what real beauty is. And, it was time again to review that little piece of information with my five-year-old daughters.

I dried my tears and wiped up the mascara, I sent up a little prayer and sat down with my little ones. Two little faces, two big brown eyes and two hazel-grey staring at me – the fount of knowledge. I am sure they saw smudged mascara and a still-red nose as we talked about beauty.

You see. I don’t believe what Victoria Secret is selling me. I don’t buy it. The perfect body doesn’t stand around in a double D size bra and tiny panties without a smidgen of fat in sight. Because that body doesn’t exist. 

Nope. It’s a fraud.

 

And even though I struggle with my own insecurities as the majority of women do, I know real beauty isn’t about how I look. It isn’t about my pant size or how I look in a swimsuit.

Beauty doesn’t come in a cookie cutter shape, with only long, skinny legs and shiny hair. It isn’t only about wearing a cheerleader costume and it certainly isn’t sold in a certain section of the department store.

Beauty is not defined in a Victoria’s Secret ad.

Beauty is so much more than that.

And so, firmly I stand when I take one small step in the fight for real beauty.

I am calling you out on your sparkly pink carpet, Victoria. I know it will not affect your financials for the year, but I’m banning you.

You don’t represent my body.

No more overpriced bras and panties. No more PINK emblazened across my backside. For my daughters’ sake, no more, Victoria. I’m done.

You see, I have done a few things right. After our conversation, my little one told me later that night:

“Mom, beauty is being pretty inside and out.”

I stood proudly that moment – football legs and all.

 Because, frankly, I don’t really care where you hid the bodies, Victoria. I’ve found mine, and it isn’t in your store.

 

If you make a New Year’s Resolution this year, let it be this: Love your body – imperfections and all.

You are Beautiful

 

Stayed tuned for tips on how to love the body you are in, and how to teach your daughters to love themselves. You won’t regret it! This is the first post in a series on body image for women. Check out my next post here: 3 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Body Image.  Or, if you struggle with self-talk, please read this post: 5 Tips to Silence Your Inner Mean Girl.

I hope you’ll join me in the fight for real beauty! 

 

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Elizabeth

Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul.I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!
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About Elizabeth

Wife, mother of twins, speaker, and creator of Balm to My Soul. I love to write, speak, sleep, snuggle and, if I really get lucky, inspire and help others. I am clearly imperfect but determined to be a little better every day. Some days are better than others! Thanks for stopping by!


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56 thoughts on “Victoria’s Secret: What Have You Done with Our Bodies?

  • Reply
    Cheryl

    There’s a sign that you put on a bathroom & bedroom mirrors that you can buy at Dollar Tree: Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful. It’s grey, so it will have an etched-in look, which is nice on mirrors.

  • Reply
    Holly Bertone

    Elizabeth – Your words are perfect. Absolutely perfect. When I was in the middle of breast cancer treatment, those same insecurities hit me like a ton of bricks. Along with my no-gap thighs, I now have two huge scars across my chest and a lucky fin (Finding Nemo reference to my right bossom). You have taught your daughters a beautiful lesson. As Stepson comes of age (he is 11), how do we teach him the same in terms of respecing a woman’s inner beauty before her outer beauty? Thank you for this post. Sharing everywhere I can. Hugs, Holly

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Holly, thank you! I cannot imagine what you went through with your breast cancer treatment. I love who you are as a woman and what you represent. I also love your question about raising our boys. I think I will add that to this series. Something like: How to Teach Your Son The Real Meaning of Beauty. Thank you for that idea. And, thank you for all the shout outs on social media. I hope that a few women can find some solace in this piece! (Hugs!!)

  • Reply
    Erica @ Coming Up Roses

    WOW, Elizabeth. Powerful read. I had tears running down my cheeks by the end!
    “Victoria must have been listening to her iPod because she didn’t hear me” – I bust up laughing! But it’s so true. I saw the CEO speak at my school this past semester (and blogged about it here: http://cominguprosestheblog.com/victorias-secrets-ceo/ ) and someone called her out on advertising, asking whether they’re intending to even market towards women or men since their models are the way they are and it seems like it’s just trying to get the men drooling sometimes.
    You are enough. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to be a mom and instill these oh-so-important lessons on your little ones when they’re surrounded by a society who reinforces the very beliefs you’re trying to shatter. Cheers to you being a fabulous mother and to raising girls who believe that you, they, and everyone around them is enough and beautiful just the way they are, regardless of their cup size, the rhinestones on their bra, or the panties in their drawer.
    Sharing this post on Twitter, because it’s a keeper!

    cominguprosestheblog.com

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Erica, your response made this all worthwhile. I feel so strongly about the power of women, and yet feel we are continually diminished by the media bombarding us daily. Your response brought tears to my eyes! Thank you, thank you. I will certainly be off to read your article. Glad that we can unite as women and fight the good fight for beauty!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you, Jen. This one was so close to my heart. I was nervous about publishing, but glad that I did. We need to band together as women and stand up for one another!! Thanks for your constant support. It means a lot.

  • Reply
    Megan Kubasch

    This is such a powerful post. Thank you so much for having the courage to delve into this sensitive subject. I also struggle with body image. Even though most people would consider me to be tall and thin, I don’t consider myself that way. I see every little imperfection. And it is because of companies like VS that perpetuate the stigma that beauty comes from a flat stomach and perky boobs. I actually worked for VS for about 3 months. I ended up quitting because it was such a catty mess. The women who worked there made fun of each other, and ridiculed me for not wearing any make up one day. The manager actually had the wherewithal to suggest that I visit the make-up tester station and put some mascara on. And the next day, another manager said that I must be used to being on my knees because I’m so good at scrubbing the floors. How inappropriate. I’ve never quit a job without 2 weeks notice. But that was completely unacceptable. When I quit, they told me that I could never have a job there again if I didn’t provide 2 weeks notice. Fine with me.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Good for you, Megan! That took guts to leave, but I definitely admire you for doing so. We don’t need to be treated in that manner. I think it is so important to fight the stigmas of beauty and teach what truly makes us beautiful. Thank you for joining in the fight!

  • Reply
    Tara

    YES! Beauty is not found in a Victorias Secret ad. I think so many of us struggle with our weight, beauty etc. Think we are not good enough, pretty enough, etc but the truth is we are just as God created us “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Loved this post. Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I love that, Tara. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We need to remember that in the world that tries to diminish who we are in God’s sight!

  • Reply
    Katelyn Fagan

    Great post Elizabeth!! It’s really a scary challenge we face raising children today in a society saturated with half-dressed, “perfect” bodies plastered everywhere! I work hard with my daughters as well. And anytime they reference someone as being pretty, I ask them why they think that, and we talk about what beauty means. Sure, they are four, but I am setting that foundation for them, as that “fount of knowledge” as you said. Thankfully, I haven’t had a ton of body issues and insecurities, as I think it will help me better equip my children. However, I do have a husband who is very overweight, so that can present a different challenge. It’s all a balancing act. Great job speaking your mind.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      It is a scary world, especially with the media uprising as it is. But, luckily, I also have interacted with some amazing youth and they have the spirit of embarking in good things! I hope to be able to raise my own daughters to be the same. I love that you talk with your daughters so early. I think that is so necessary. As we do it early on, hopefully we can combat the negative things they will be taught.

  • Reply
    Carrie Hansen

    Elizabeth this is Beautiful! What I like the most about this article, you ask? Simply this, you don’t just write these words you live them. I can’t think of one conversation that we’ve had where you haven’t reminded me of my value as a daughter of God. With that said, I still struggle with my self conception and in so doing I am scared to death for my daughters. How do I teach my daughter her hypothyroid weight issues will probably prevent her from being a professional ballerina while still teaching her that she is beautiful. It’s hard, we struggle (both of us) with our self image. I am so grateful for you and your example. Thank you for giving me the words.

  • Reply
    Rachael

    Thank you for writing this! It’s so hard to teach our children what true beauty is when they are bombarded with the media telling them to loose more here and have more here. Thanks for your great response and sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply
    Kristina and Millie

    beautiful and powerful! I am saving this to look back at again and again. Low self-esteem is something most everyone suffers at one point so it’s great to have something like this awesome post to get you back into a positive frame of mind!

  • Reply
    Tammy @ creativekkids

    I’m banning them too (already have done so) because of the body issue and also because of the pornography our men and boys see every time they walk by their windows or see their ads on TV. Nothing good about them!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I fully agree with you Tammy! It is offensive. More than to us as women, certainly to men as well. Glad there are a few of us banning them together!

  • Reply
    Candace

    I can so relate to everything you have shared here, Elizabeth. I will definitely be following your body image series. This is a beautiful, meaningful start to it. I always tried to avoid discussing my body image woes in front of my daughter, but sadly, I know she heard me whine about weight, etc. far too often. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Candace, I felt so strongly about this post. I know that my girls have heard the same, and I really make an effort not to talk about it. Isn’t it sad how the media can make us believe the falsehoods about what makes us beautiful, enough, and valuable. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your sweet heart with me!

  • Reply
    Rachel G

    My Mom always taught me “Pretty is as pretty does, if you don’t act pretty, you’re not pretty.” That lesson stuck with me and impacted my life way more than any commercial or advertisement. Victoria’s Secret sure seems to be overrated and over-priced, anyways–I definitely don’t see them as something too look up to, but it’s sad that in a weird sort of way they set a certain standard.

  • Reply
    Janine Huldie

    As a mom to two young girls, I could very much relate to so much here. I never really had a weight issue myself, but after having two kids less then 16 months apart I definitely have struggled with my body and self imagine. I also want to make sure my girls know that they are totally good enough and worthy of so much in this life. So, thank you for this thought provoking post and look forward to your tips, too.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you, Janine. It is difficult raising children in this environment. I hope I can be wise enough to figure it out and help my own daughters believe in themselves, and truly define beauty in a way that isn’t diminishing and competitive.

  • Reply
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    Do you remember the Dove Real Beauty campaign? Actually, I think they’re still doing it. I didn’t feel weird about my girls seeing billboards or Real Beauty ads because it showed that a beautiful woman was one who was clean and happy, not one who was trying to get attention by being overtly sexual.

  • Reply
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    Do you remember the Dove Real Beauty campaign? Actually, I think they’re still doing it. I didn’t feel weird about my girls seeing billboards or Real Beauty ads because it showed that a beautiful woman was one who was clean and happy, not one who was trying to get attention by being overtly sexual.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I know that campaign, Jenny. Luckily I think there are a few campaigns that are fighting for us. It sometimes seems overwhelming that there is so much negative, but there are some positives too. Thanks for stoppping and commenting!

  • Reply
    Rabia @TheLiebers

    Amen, Elizabeth. My 11-year old daughter told me I was fat the other night. In truth, I’m not. And I don’t really worry that I am, but it stung for her to say that. And it turns out she was joking. Her father and I had a long talk with her about that kind of joke and how inappropriate it is. I hope she got the message.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      I am sure that she did. I think that our culture teaches such a lack of respect and general kindness that our children model that without realizing how harmful and hurtful it can be. Luckily, there are parents like you that kindly and quickly intervene to teach them what is inappropriate – even if TV or schoolmates act otherwise.

  • Reply
    normaleverydaylife

    Great post! It’s so hard to feel good about your body when we’re bombarded with media images that hold up an impossible standard. I think your setting a wonderful example for your girls and I’m sure they’ll be very proud to read this someday!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      It is. Thank you for the sweet compliment. I hope I can teach them to love and believe in themselves. It is so important to me that they know that now!

  • Reply
    Gaye @CalmHealthySexy

    This is a beautiful post, Elizabeth, and so important for us and all of the women in our lives to understand. But it is very hard to feel beautiful when our culture established false and unrealistic standards of beauty. Thank you for sharing this post with the Let’s Get Real party. It is going to be my featured post at this week’s party.

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you Gaye. I really appreciate it! I agree with your wholly about our culture of false and unrealistic standards of beauty. We need to teach our children how to love and believe in themselves. Honestly, we need to teach and remind one another as well!

  • Reply
    Heather@ My Overflowing Cup

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us and for so eloquently addressing such an important topic in our society!

    As you stated, the vast majority of women struggle with self-image. For me, I learned to be content with my body when I realized that I am God’s creation. Because He made me, I am enough.

    May we all grant ourselves the grace to stop comparing ourselves to that which is not only unrealistic, but unimportant. Wise words, Elizabeth!

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you, Heather. I agree with you. We need to know who we are as we seek contentment with ourselves. When we realize we are His, it becomes a little clearer what is important. The sad thing is the world is desperately trying to make us forget that! Thank you for your sweet thoughts! I so appreciate them.

  • Reply
    lisa M

    Great post! I agree…..those images of so called ‘perfection’ aren’t real! The naughty part of me sometimes leaves comments on these misleading ad’s about their over-use of Photoshop. Bad? Oh yes! At the same time though, I hope that maybe some little girl looking at the current ‘perfect’ face and body realizes that it isn’t real. Nobody is flawless and perfect but the media seems to want to convince us (and our children) that it’s some sort of attainable goal…..if they just work hard enough at this gym, buy that makeup and wear these clothes. It’s sad really, but in their bid for our shopping dollars companies have thrown our daughters under the bus of insecurity!

    I look forward to reading your other posts on this topic!

    Thanks for joining the Great Blog Train last month! I hope to see you this month as we travel to Myrtle Beach!

    ~Lisa M

    • Reply
      Elizabeth Post author

      Thank you Lisa! I feel so strongly about this and it truly does affect the ways that our children view themselves and others. It is sad. Thanks for hosting the Blog Train and for stopping by!