How to feel enough under the weight of the beauty load, with Nicole Mathieson

Nicole Mathieson is a Brisbane based counsellor and couple therapist, has a couple of podcasts and is the author of 'The Beauty Load - how to feel enough in a world obsessed with beauty'. Her relatable and big-hearted wisdom sees her explore personal and intimate topics that many others dare not speak about. As a counsellor, Nicole has seen the Beauty Load doing its self-esteem stealing damage in real time as she helps her clients grapple with not feeling good enough to love and be seen. As a flat chested, red headed, freckle faced woman, Nicole has felt it too, and intimately knows the negative thinking and the cascade of insecurities that follow. And as a mother, Nicole has felt deeply concerned about what the unavoidable exposure to beauty messaging is doing to her children.

Through sharing her struggles and exposing the realities of the toxic beauty pressure we are all bombarded with, Nicole hopes to empower others to feel confident, worthy and secure enough to step into intimate, loving relationships with themselves and others. The Beauty Load is her first book.

Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast and more.

Broadcast: January 13, 2023
Duration: 46:52

Here’s a snippet of the full podcast...

The birth of The Beauty Load:

I thought it was about me. I thought I was inadequate until I have had the privilege for the last 12 years of being in counselling and coaching, privy to women’s sense of inadequacy and I went, holy sh*t, this is not just me; this is every single woman that walks through this door, and that's not what she's coming through the door for - this is just a ‘by the bye, not a big deal,’ not something I would come for therapy for - just seeing it over and over and over and over and over again, realising this was inevitable, insidious, every single woman's experience.

So what is the beauty load?

I've named it the beauty load to align with the mental load that some of your listeners will be familiar with. This sense of an invisible load that sits, rests on our shoulders, that is about all the things we have to do, keep the balls in the air. And so there's the mental load, then there's the emotional load of making sure everyone's okay and nurtured around us and on top of that, there's another load, this beauty load, which is particularly felt by women, around ‘how am I looking? Am I appearing good enough, acceptable enough, appropriate enough in the world?’ And I think that this load that is a constant companion to us, a constant, nasty companion most of the time is inevitable, it is hard to escape, and often we don't even realise we are under its influence. So it's kind of silent, subtle pressure that we are feeling and it seems to have direct correlation with our self-esteem, and our sense of confidence and power in the world.

What are some of the things that we as women are doing in our day-to-day that demonstrates that load?

So it could be anything. So for me, my crack through which my inadequacy seeped in was a flat chest. So I didn't feel beautiful enough as all my friends, as teenagers and adolescents were growing beautiful breasts and the boys were just like magnets towards them. It just kind of crept in that way, and I just started with a belief that I'm not enough. I'm not attractive, I'm not sexual, I'm not sensual enough to be attractive to boys and men. So that was just a starting place really where it crept in, but it became a vigilance and a belief system. Sort of created the way I presented in the world, my sense of confidence. But I think on a day-to-day.. it could be little comments, it could be family culture, it could be a shaming to try and create change in you or it could be what I call the shit storm of insecurity moments we have in adolescence where it all just hits with puberty.. and day to day it could be anything from feeling like we have to compensate with a lot of beauty work, we have to have the latest fashion, we have to be right on trend, we have to hide certain parts of ourselves, we have to wear lots of makeup or do our hair, which is all good stuff – I am actually am not ever suggesting that we don't make ourselves feel beautiful, feel and look beautiful but it’s how much of if it is due to a sense that you are not enough.

How will the beauty load ever end?

You know, for someone of our generation who grew up without the internet, it feels like the internet is just fuelling this, but there is hope, because the other thing the internet does is it, is it brings minority groups and little subcultures together. And I think that the way out of this has to be in us finding our little micro-cultures. Micro-cultures need to start internally, they start within us and I think really the place to start is with self-compassion. We need to understand that we didn't buy into this. There's no shame in feeling shit about our appearance. But we do need to forgive ourselves for how hard we've been on ourselves, and we do need to process this.


Follow Nicole on Instagram at @nicole.mathieson or visit her website here. You can also find her on Youtube.

Purchase her book 'The Beauty Load' here.

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Thank you so much for listening to this episode. I’m so honoured that you’re here and would be so grateful if you could take 2 minutes to leave me a 5-star review in Apple podcasts or on your podcast app, so that together we may inspire more women in the process.

Amy Crawford

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