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The Maastricht Diplomat

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Becoming a woman (title in progress)

Image painted by Pauline Keller

I am becoming a woman, that’s what everyone says.

I don’t even really know what that means, I never looked in the dictionary to find a clear and simple definition. I don’t know what that means, but I start noticing the stares when I walk in the street, mostly coming from men. They’re looking at my breast before even looking into my eyes. Each time I try to understand what that look can picture as if I was waiting to be judged.

Am I desirable? Am I pretty? Am I worthy? I will never have an answer since those guys never talk to me, sometimes they follow me silently as if I were an extraterrestrial creature and not a human. Having any concrete contact with those men seems unthinkable. Maybe it’s better. Ignorance can help me protect a semblance of peace.

I am becoming a woman, that's what everyone says. I grew up waiting for this moment to come and now I regret wasting my childhood trying to look much older than I was. I wanted to be like those girls on TV or runways, I wanted to be as beautiful as them, although I had no clue what they were going through. I just wanted to look like them. I wanted to become “The Woman™”, not a woman. I wanted to fit into those crazy stupid stereotypes. Why? I still don’t really know actually, maybe because of the magazines stacked at the doctor’s waiting room, the beauty shows on television, or the repetitive “I can see your lunch” during dance class coming from my teacher. I was just seven or eight years old when I understood that being slim and wearing makeup would make me feel more valuable while being kind and nice to others would make me feel listened to and trusted.

To make a long story short, I understood that being a “mannequin” would help me. So now, I can’t fight the urge to transform myself -I want to be “naturally” pretty- I want to feel pretty in my own skin without the supposed ornaments that I have been sold to while growing up but I can’t leave the house without checking my hair and putting on makeup. I am drowning in superficiality and hate myself for it. I want to be perfect no matter what. But it’s a never-ending cycle, I will never be satisfied. Because I am not “The Woman™”. And I will never be.

I don’t really know how to feel about this statement. Shame maybe. Dissatisfaction, disgust, an intense sense of never being enough. Needing sheer endless validation from others just to love myself a bit. I am scared of this constant judgment, yet I crave it. Everything is silent and this silence is deafening. There is pressure on my shoulders. I am losing myself before i found who I am as an adult. This paradoxical state makes me uncomfortable and vulnerable. I can pretend that I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, I’m by myself on this huge floating rock. But still, those thoughts are persisting and overwhelming. You have to pretend. You have to seem proud and strong. You have to speak for yourself but never use bad words, never swear, otherwise you’re too extreme and crazy. You can’t raise your true voice without the fear of being called bossy, while men are described as assertive when doing the same. My behavior is based on someone else’s expectations. Someone else that cannot be grasped. Someone else that is constituted by a multitude of individuals. But the sheer number of individuals, each with their own judgment, is overwhelming and they just become blurred within the mass.

How can I express what I truly think when I change my way of speaking to never disappoint? If you put me in a room with different friend groups at the same time, I probably wouldn’t know how to act. There is this huge gap between what I think and what I allow myself to say and consequently, be. I sometimes feel like, as a girl, I am expected to not hurt anyone’s feelings, I have to be comprehensive and caring.

How can I love myself, especially my body, when beauty standards are constantly changing?

In less than twenty years, the perfect woman’s body changed more than three times. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I was obsessed with models, those tall and thin creatures walking on runways. They looked malnourished and in pain but I didn’t care.In fact, I didn’t know how unattainable those beauty standards were and couldn’t simply imagine how hard it was to starve yourself in order to be thin. I wanted to look like them, no matter what. But then, a few years after, another “Body Goal” became trendy, glamorizing plastic surgery. Women suddenly needed to have boobs and ass, whilst maintaining a flat stomach and small waist. These last years, we seem to slowly move back to the “Heroin chic” aesthetic, inspired by the nineties and Kate Moss’ apogee with beauty standards glamorizing underweight bodies, thigh gaps, and sharp collar bones. But how did those rapid shifts occur? No idea. The only thing is, I was not fitting any of those standards. And I couldn’t handle it. Nowadays, most girls are facing constant comparison, jealousy, and body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia (also called BDD) is a psychological disorder that puts a word on the obsession with appearance, describing a mental condition where a person spends countless hours scanning every inch of her/his/their body with anxiety, horror, and severe judgment. One of the main symptoms of this disorder is referred to as “societal pressure or expectations of beauty”. It says a lot about the reality we are currently facing; the way you look at yourself and the way others look at you can create so much discomfort it becomes a disorder. It has sadly become so common that we now refer to it as low self-confidence.

Growing up is hard. It’s day-to-day lessons. It is a never-ending transformation. You have to face failure, ends, beginnings, disappointment, loss, pain, and questioning. But it’s inevitable. And it can give you hope in a way. I still hope to find myself regardless of people’s standards, without caring about how my hair looks or how I speak anymore. My process is in constant progress, I change. And maybe through those steps, I will find the strength to speak my truth and love myself.Maybe it is what “becoming a woman” means?

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