Perfect Women Are Imperfect

…and every woman you perceive to be perfect hates themselves anyway. Millie Manders explores the impossible beauty standards we face, and how that affects her as an artist.

Guest article written by the marvellous Millie Manders, of Millie Manders & The Shut Up Fame. This is part of our #MentallySound series, exploring mental health in music. Trigger warning: eating disorders, body dysmorphia.

Perfect women are imperfect and every woman you perceive to be perfect hates themselves anyway

It’s true.

I hate myself. I’m not perfect. I am very, very imperfect and I hate myself. And seeing as I have been given the honour of this platform to share about mental health, I want to get right to the bones of something people are petrified of truly admitting is a problem.

I believe, as a musician who gets to do some of the coolest things ever, I should be helping people to see through the lies we are sold and to love themselves better. And I really do try to do that.

I teach young impressionable students at a music college, a huge proportion of whom have body image issues and other anxieties that I talk to them about. I share good practise and self-love resources with them and signpost them to other sites/forums/centres wherever I can, to help them be more positive and kind towards themselves.

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The problem is that I feel guilty for it. I feel like a fraud. I have bought into those same lies for as long as I can remember and I punish myself every day.

The first thing I do when I wake up is look at myself naked in the mirror and all I can see is the lack of “good curves”. I look at my stomach. That hard-to-get-rid-of bulge that sits on the lowest bar of abdominal muscles that when I sit down or bend over becomes an apron of fat. That’s all I see.

Then the fine lines. I found one on my face today that’s definitely a smile line. Fuck. Only Botox and fillers can get rid of that. Would I do that? Maybe I’d do that. I’m in the public eye. What if people stop listening to my music because I look old?

I have a song; Obsession Transgression. It’s about obsessing over beauty standards. We all do it. Men are told they should have massive private appendages and six packs. Women are told they should look like Jessica Rabbit. The truth is that both of these things are rare. Maybe that’s what makes them attractive: the exoticism of it. We are sold a cartoon character of reality day in, day out. Perfect skin, perfect thighs, perfect ass, perfect lives… (Yes, that’s a lyric I’ve already coined. Sorry).

Everywhere we look since the inception of cosmetic companies and the rise of media we have been sold a convenient and unattainable beauty standard, in order for cosmetic and cosmetic surgery businesses to profit from our mirror misery.

I was asked to write about mental health as a musician. Actually, as much as I could write an entirely separate blog about my reactions to being on the road, I feel like this is so important to recognise.

Body dysmorphia is huge and on the rise. So are eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Here are some statistics for eating disorders and body dysmorphia:

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/media-centre/eating-disorder-statistics

http://natcen.ac.uk/blog/englands-first-estimates-of-body-dysmorphic-disorder-prevalence-in-children-and-young-people

I used to be in the gym at least four times a week for four hours at a time. I couldn’t put on weight. I was a size 0-6. I was called “Rexi” no matter how much I ate. I thought building back and thigh muscles would make me look better.

When I put on weight and became a 10-12, I was told my stomach was like a “pillow” and my “tight ass and abs” were missed. I ate less and exercised more to be better.

When I was asked to model – I wasn’t tall enough for catwalk and size 8 was just that bit too big – I hated myself and wore baggy clothes. For a few years in the summer I wore sweaters the whole season to hide my body. I thought I was disgusting.

When I see photos and interviews of myself I judge what I look like before sharing any of them. If I look “too fat” they get archived.

I am not here to ask for sympathy. I am here being honest because I know I am not alone.

I know that the pressure of looking good in front of a camera extends to every person who is reading this, whether it’s a selfie, a holiday snap or a professional photo. I would like to break the ice and open the conversation so that we can all be more open about our fears and self-hatred and hopefully overcome it.

I would like to see fashion magazines disappear. I’d like to see cosmetic companies cease to exist. I’d like everyone to see personality over skin problems.

Like any institutionalised school of thought – look at 5-600 years of slavery and racism or 5,000 years of patriarchy – the idea that the natural form, any form, is beautiful has been so squashed for the benefit of the few that we are having to recondition ourselves to the idea that we are all uniquely beautiful.

I am scared. I am scarred. I am standing on a soapbox hoping you won’t think I am being presumptuous or overbearing. I am freaking out that people will think I am ludicrous. I am hoping to spread some love.

We are all beautiful. I hope we will all see it one day. I hope I will see myself as beautiful one day. I have lived probably half my life already and for most of that all I have rained down on myself is criticism. I compare myself to every woman I see in the gym (so many tiny waists and perfect butts) and every lady on the street (beautiful flowing hair, freckles, perfect boobs, flat tummies; you name it)…

So if you do too, you’re not alone. There are people looking at you that think you are stunning and comparing themselves to you right now. Because that’s what we do. We’ve been trained to believe that everyone but us can be perfect. But perfect is knowing that your uniqueness is incredible and beautiful and intrinsically you and no one can ever be that.

Guest article written by Millie Manders; a woman who I’ve definitely looked at and thought ‘I wish I could look like that’. Millie is a Norwich-based singer/songwriter who leads Millie Manders & The Shut Up alongside teaching other musical outlets.

This is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. 

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