Last week I attended the Entrepreneurial Women's Expo (EWE), a conference for local women entrepreneurs. It was a lovely day, filled with inspiring, successful women. I listened to several women speak on a variety of topics from workplace culture and passion to web based marketing and personal branding. I enjoyed each of the talks I heard, very much. Each woman planted a few seeds in my head that I am continuing to consider and cultivate.
The speaker who addressed finding passion in work & life asked us to consider not only what work we are passionate about doing, but about what causes we might be passionate about. As she put it, "what breaks your heart, more than other peoples' hearts?"
There are lots of things that break my heart in this world that can be so cold and cruel. However, the things that stir me, don't seem to stir me more or less than anyone else with a beating heart. It wasn't until at the end of the day, that I realized what that thing was.
I was speaking to a woman whom I had spoken to earlier in the day. She owns a very successful business. She is creative and resourceful. She is beautiful, bold and strong. This was all apparent to me in the first one minute of speaking with her during that first conversation that morning. We struck up another conversation in the afternoon and she asked me more about what I do, then she said "well, can you make me a size 2?" My heart shattered. I know she said it in jest. But that's the thing, there is a bit of truth in every joke, yes?
To answer her, and every woman who has asked me a question like this one, No. I can't. I wouldn't if I could. You are gorgeous, you are stunning. you are uniquely you. With everything that you see as an imperfection, with everything that society has told you is wrong, I see unsurpassed original beauty.
You see fat; I see elegant curves. You see lines and wrinkles; I see evidence of laughter. You see that pinch of skin at the front of your armpit, you know the one, and ask if it can be covered; I see capable arms that move with purpose (you need that pinch of skin if you expect to raise you arms above your head!) You see a woman, too short, too tall, too gangly, too muscular, too broad shouldered, too wire-framed, with breasts not big enough, too big, with a torso too long, not long enough. For each woman I see that bemoans the state of her body, there is another who has the features you dream of-- and she's wishes she had yours!
I am in a unique position to see this about women. As they undress their bodies so I can change the shape of their clothes, they undress their insecurities and hope their bodies will change instead. They ask me about ways to make things more "flattering" or to "hide" their imperfections. Like the amazing woman I met at the conference, many of these women are successful by all of society's measures-- they are 'movers and shakers' in this community. Society has reduced them to just bodies, and ones they are bound to be unhappy with.
I say, no more. We can't choose the models that use in magazines, but we can choose if we believe what we see. Look at the women around you, in their bold beautiful bodies, and see it in yourself too, because that is truth and that is beauty.
Anyone who has come to see me in the past few months knows I have this sticker on my fitting room mirror:
I believe it. And I am passionate about stripping away the distortions and spreading the word about what a "beautiful body" really means.
I'm Denise Meyer, apparel designer in State College, PA, saving the world one clothing problem at a time!