CAUTION: I am going to be real with y’all. Woman to woman. Are you ready?

I love fashion. I love everything about it. The colours, fabrics, textures, trends, everything. To me, fashion is an art form. Even before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, I can remember always drawing pictures of wedding dresses on a paper napkin, every time my family ate out at a restaurant.  I wanted to be a fashion designer. A wedding dress designer to be exact.

So what happened? And what’s so wrong with fashion mags anyway?

Absolutely nothing at all.

However, you may have experienced the same problem I have countless times after digesting the latest issue of Vogue.

You have come to a whole new realisation about yourself and it has completely turned your body-image upside down. It’s rocked your world, and not in a good way.

After hours spent flicking through a magazine, you’ve realised that according to the industry…you’re pretty much  average looking.

Maybe a 5 out of 10? I mean your butt is quite large for a girl your size. You could very well give Kim Kardashian a run for her money (no judgement Kim)! Despite the countless hours of butt-buster workouts and squats, you just can’t seem to get rid of that cellulite on your thighs. And your skin just never quite looks like it’s glowing despite all the self-tanner you buy and concealer you wear.

Ladies, if you are reading this and find yourself saying “Yes, that’s me” or “I’ve thought that!” then you my dear may be suffering from low self-esteem. I mean who doesn’t?

And it may have to do with how often you read those fashion mags.

That’s right. Despite what the industry tell us, despite all the promises of “a better body in 10 days”, or “how to dress like a starlet” self-help articles, the reality is this: reading fashion magazines and celebrity news tabloids actually increases a woman’s self-loathing and decreases her self-esteem.

I mean, how am I supposed to look like that supermodel when half of her body has been airbrushed, photo-shopped, and enhanced?

No wonder there is an epidemic of eating disorders among young women today! The pressure placed on these women to be perfect is phenomenal and bombards us wherever we go. The supermarket, clothing stores, TV, music videos, everywhere!

I discovered my unhealthy obsession with self-image and beauty first-hand during my college years.

As a fashion lover myself, I frequented the magazine aisle at Target, hoping to get my hands on the newest issue of In-Style and Vogue. The glossy finish and pages upon pages of designer ads fed my materialistic cravings.

I wanted to be like those girls in the magazines.

I wanted their long thick hair, tanned skin, and teen tiny waist.

I had to be those girls. In my mind, perfection equated happiness. And I was far from perfect, so I became discontent. I wasn’t happy as myself. I wouldn’t rest until I could be someone else.

But no matter how many gyms I joined or moisturizer I applied, I could never truly become a Calvin Klein model.

My obsession for perfection and my unrealistic expectation of beauty was completely out of control. I wasn’t aware of my own problem until one day I noticed a pattern. After reading an In Style magazine (usually in between breaks from studying), I noticed that my mood suddenly changed.  I couldn’t help but to walk over to my floor-length mirror and begin to analyse everything about me that wasn’t supermodel worthy. I was my own worst critic. I even critiqued … wait for it…my wrists.

I mean, who does that?

So I did a little experiment.

I stopped buying them. For one month, I completely gave up fashion magazines.

I not only saved a little money, I also noticed a change in my overall behaviour.

I wasn’t so hard on myself. I was no longer comparing myself to women who had been photo-shopped to have skinny waists, shiny legs, and gigantic breasts. I stopped comparing myself altogether.

“Comparison is the thief of joy”, said Eleanor Roosevelt. I think Ms Roosevelt knew a little secret about us women. She understood women and women problems. The moment we compare ourselves to others, we have lost the battle in the mind.

The problem with comparison is that it destroys our understanding of what true beauty is and what real beauty looks like. Comparison robs our joy. And comparison transforms us into vain and materialistic women who are discontented and full of self-loathing!

And reading Cosmo is supposed to make you sexier? I don’t think so! What’s sexy about a bitchy discontented woman?

Absolutely nothing.

But do you know what is sexy? Confidence.

“Loving the skin you’re in” might ring a bell to you. Sure, it’s a bit easier said than done, but the moment you can embrace your own body and become confident in your own skin, you will save yourself a lot of frustration and grief. Besides, ask your male friend. He’ll tell you: a confident woman is sexy.

I’m not telling you to avoid buying fashion magazines. If you think that’s the message of my post, then you’ve completely missed the point!

The point is this: weed out the things in your life that cause you to feel insecure about yourself and discontented with your life.

For me, that thing happened to be fashion and celebrity magazines. For you, it might be something else.

Take a minute and think about it. What are some things in your life that make you feel insecure?

Does scrolling around Facebook make you more likely to compare your life to others, resulting in discontentment? Does reading fashion magazines make you feel insecure about your body? Does calorie counting make you unhealthily obsess about your weight? Are you addicted to working out so that the shear thought of missing one workout makes you spiral into a panic attack?

If you can identify something in your life that causes you to feel insecure about your body-image, then maybe it’s time to make a change in your life.

And if your “self-esteem trigger” isn’t Vogue, then consider yourself lucky.

As for me and my love-hate relationship with fashion mags? Occasionally, I flick through In Style when I’m at a friend’s house. Magazine trolling has especially become more of a hobby as of late since I’ve been engaged. But I am slowly introducing myself back into the world of detox dieting and runway fashion, one magazine article at a time. Instead of letting my insecurities rule me, I’ve taken control of them. I no longer compare my body to some Brazilian woman on the front cover. Instead, I am learning to embrace who I am, focusing more on my attitude than my appearance.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up and being healthy as much as the next girly girl does, but instead of focusing all my attention on external beauty…

I am focusing more of my attention on internal beauty.

That’s the major problem with society’s conception of beauty: not only is there an impossible standard of beauty that most woman struggle to achieve, but society focuses on a woman’s body rather than her heart.

It may sound corny, but your heart matters more than you physical appearance. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Shouldn’t we be more concerned with our heart condition than our physical condition anyway?

As a Christian, it’s important to focus on what matters to the Lord and what will last when everything else fades away: my heart. My heart condition should be my central focus, not my BMI percentage or whether my triceps look toned.

Sure, every now and then I can be a little silly when it comes to body image. What girl doesn’t look in the mirror and notice a little something that needs tweaking? But am I dieting to decrease my wrist size?

Absolutely not.