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AdviceHey, Bonita!

Help Me Stop Being So Shallow

Bonita, 

I’m shallow af, and I need your help! I do not know how to unlearn or fix my worldview regarding looks and weight. I was raised in a very image conscious household, and it has always affected me. 

Up until recently I thought I was doing OK, but I’ve found myself thinking scary, negative thoughts about other people based on their bodies. It makes me feel bad, and it’s keeping me from having new people in my life. Example: I meet someone good looking and nice at work and they friend me on a social media site, I go through their pics and notice that they used to be much bigger and dressed very messily, and I’m automatically turned off knowing they were once heavy and messy. Or I meet someone great romantically or friend-wise, they show me family photos, and I see that their family doesn’t look like the hot person sitting in front of me, I start making mental judgments about people letting themselves go and not having any self restraint (or eyebrows or teeth or whatever), and then I find that person less appealing and assume they come from a weird family with tons of problems. (I know, I know, I’m the one from the weird family with tons of problems.) I know how messed up this is. 

Also, I keep ruling out friends or partners based on not only looks but mutual connections. Look, this is a small community, everybody knows everybody through somebody, but I’ll match with someone on Tinder and realize their sister was a mutual friend from 15 years ago, and I’ll remember her as being really rude or embarrassing me in a crowd as a joke, and I’ll be disgusted with my Tinder match for meaningless behavior that his sister exhibited pretty much a zillion years ago. And then I see that someone’s a mutual friend with someone I hate, so I assume they are hateable as well. 

Is this a social media problem? A lot of insane beauty standards were pushed on me as a child way before social media, so it can’t be that alone–I’m just at a loss here. How can I stop judging people and myself about stupid, meaningless, petty, shallow stuff? 

Sincerely, 

Drowning in the Shallow End

Hey there Drowning,

Sit down and tuck in, because you are about to pursue an undertaking that can last for years and, honestly, probably won’t ever end. Unlearning lifelong paradigms that we’ve always held dear takes constant mindfulness of our own thoughts and intentions. 

You’ve already tackled a big part of the problem, which is just acknowledging that you are focused on appearance to a problematic degree. You already know that this is not kind or loving behavior, and beyond that, you seem to also be aware of the fact that people’s looks have pretty much nothing to do with their quality as a human being. I bet you could think of all kinds of gorgeous people in the world who are absolute garbage humans (I certainly can), so assuming that ugly people are bad makes as much sense as assuming that hot people are good. It may help to start with yourself by thinking of all of the less-than-hot people that you love. If you have grandparents, I’m sure they don’t look like Robert Redford and Helen Mirren. Your mom and dad may be sweet little butterballs that you love dearly, and you may just have a cousin or lifelong friend who has spread out over the years. Imagine someone refusing to acknowledge their humanity or worthiness because of their looks. Also, don’t forget that beauty is totally subjective and that there are definitely people in the world who think that you—YES, YOU—are ugly. Beauty is defined by the individual, and remembering that may help you to wrestle your own beauty standards away from the mass-media definition. Instead of focusing on an aspect of a person that you deem unattractive, keep in mind that they do not exist to please you and actually owe you nothing in terms of aesthetics. There’s tons of media out there that tackles the problem of the beauty standard and how it harms our relationships with others, so get to Googling.

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