Female self doubt
The cast of reality TV show The Only Way is Essex (Mark Wright far left, Lauren Goodger far right).
The prize for orgiastic self-loathing this week goes to one Lauren Goodger, the ‘‘star’’ (oh how loosely I use the term) of The Only Way is Essex, the most horrific reality show to infect television since Temptation Island, which at least had some good scenery.
Much of TOWIE’s confected drama comes from the death struggle/relationship between Lauren and her long-time sweetheart, Mark Wright, who is so loathsome I am surprised The Footy Show has not snapped him up as a panelist.
Mark professes to love Lauren but his behaviour towards her oscillates between thinly-veiled contempt and open psychopathy. Most episodes end with Lauren running from a nightclub crying.
Lauren and her bottom-feeding self-esteem are the subject of a feature in lastweek’s Heat magazine, a British gossip rag (and, unforgivably, the chief vehicle for Katie Price’s ascension to near-global domination).
‘‘I hate the way I look,’’ Goodger told the magazine, detailing the way she avoids mirrors and photographs of herself.
‘‘What part of your body do you hate the most?’’ probed her kindly interviewer.
‘‘My legs and my arms – I hate them,’’ she tossed back.
‘‘I think if I had skinnier legs I could hide being bigger. My legs are the biggest bit of me and my arms need to be halved in size.’’
Lauren, for the record, is a size 12, but it’s her cringe-making self esteem at issue here, not whether or not she is actually fat and/or hideous.
Lauren has never held herself out as a poster-girl for female empowerment, although I think the poor love would be poster-girl for anything if you asked her, so desperate is she for affirmation.
But her naked self-hatred got me thinking about how tragic women can become when they fall down the rabbit-hole of body issues and low self-esteem (I include myself in this cohort, I should note).
Demi Moore is another example. She too has battled with body issues, and recently she gave an interview to Harper’s Bazaar baring her insecurities.
"What scares me is ... that I’m really not lovable, that I’m not worthy of being loved,’’ she said.
Of course, part of me thought that was ineffably sad, a terrible indictment on the cold dead heart of celebrity worship etc etc, but another part of me screamed, ‘‘You have children who love you and you’re richer than God! How bad can it be? Get your head out of your own arse!’’
Not for a minute am I saying that body dysmorphia and dangerous disorders like bulimia and anorexia aren’t real.
But below that pathological level, shouldn’t women just harden up a bit, and stop seeking the admiration and affirmation of a world that so often won’t give it?
Men don’t spend their days asking the world to tell them they’re pretty, or skinny, or worthy.
This is a massive generalisation, but in my experience, men know instinctively that people tend to take you at your own estimation of yourself.
Yes, it is women and not men, who are bombarded with media images of perfection they can never emulate.
We are judged according to our looks in a way men can’t fathom, and objectified in a way that can make even the most robust among us neurotic.
But if we’re honest, don’t we sometimes partake in our own punishment?
Who among us hasn’t badgered their partner with some variation on, ‘‘Does my bum look big in this?’’ and ‘‘Do you think I need to lose weight?’’
I will never forget my boyfriend’s reaction recently, when I was interrogating him thusly.
He said, more to himself than to me, and with wonderment in his voice: ‘‘There really is no end to female self-doubt, is there?’’
But maybe there is, and maybe we can decide where that end is. At some point we must stop blaming society and start mentally disciplining ourselves - to reign our insecurities in, not to rely overly on the approbation of others. Sometimes, instead of caving in to its demands, we need to tell the world to f--k off with its unrealistic expectations.
Because at some point on the continum, low self esteem becomes a relentless obssession with self, and tips over into narcissism.
And narcissism is never pretty.