t’s a word we use almost every day to compare ourselves to others, judge others and to make a choice over which product to try based on its better-looking packaging. However, not one of us knows exactly what “beauty” or “being beautiful” is. Why then do we aim to be something we do not know?
Body Image has a top concern for young people today, but is also one that has been virtually ignored by the media and fashion industry that has created a world obsessed with the ideology of beauty.
Photo shopped images of tall, stick thin but yet curvy models has given society a warped indication of beauty with various unhealthy diets to lose weight and obtain the virtually impossible airbrushed look. Excessive behaviour leading to illnesses such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa has been strongly related to the pressure to look perfect.
This has led to a beauty fascist society where those who look “different” and “uglier” than the norm are subject to discrimination and social stigma. Yet the people with physical disabilities and/or disfigurements seem to be those who are mentally, the strongest and most comfortable in their own skin, Joanne Hutchins for example, accomplished writer and ambassador for Don’t DIS my ABILITY. With so much prejudice against their appearance, they admirably still manage to live life to its fullest, enjoy a healthy mind and feel beautiful.
After previously struggling with my own body related self-esteem issues, including an attempt to starve myself, I understand what it feels like to feel body-conscious. Here are a few tips to help you treasure yourself with a healthier body and mind:
I had begun a drastic diet to “lose weight fast” which consisted of water, salad made entirely of lettuce and vitamin tablets. I didn’t care about my health, only that I needed to be skinny. I was lucky enough to have a few of my close friends notice my unusual behaviour but at that time, I lied and said I was trying to become a “healthy vegetarian”. I also started caking makeup onto make face because I hated my acne. Eventually, the starvation, pressure and stress from school work and friend’s concerns helped me to finally face my fears and confide with a friend about the problems I was facing.
Contrary to my assumptions, my friend was very understanding and reminded me that I was fine the way I was and that was what made me special. I know it sounded cheesy but during that stressful period in my life, it worked.
If your friend or relative is suffering from body image issues as I was, remember to remind them that they are loved the way they are or make sure to give a subtle compliment them every once in a while. If you are the person receiving the compliment, be sure to accept the compliment gracefully by saying “thank you” or simply smiling, that way the both you and the person giving the compliment feels good about themselves.
Knowing that my loved ones loved me, and accepted me for the way I was, it was my turn to accept me for me. Personally, I found this probably the most difficult thing to do.
On my way to school, I would always be bombarded with posters and billboards of long-legged models including Jennifer Hawkins, Miranda Kerr and Jessica Hart. I used to always compare myself to others; models and non-models. I would even wear thick stockings on 35°C summer heat because I felt my legs were too fat and that it would be an embarrassment to expose them even though I was a size 6 (Australian). My body consciousness had led me into a state of depression where I would cry myself to sleep each night.
From what I have learnt, there is no correct way to accept yourself for who you are, only that the process takes time. For me, I had to recognise my insecurities and that the media had portrayed beauty in a sickly manner. I also did some research, read a lot of blogs about people who had previously suffered from anorexia and concluded that I wasn’t willing to starve myself to look horribly thin.
Find a part of you that you like and appreciate it. I did this by focusing on a strength that I have. This could be your eyes, shoulders, the way your eyelashes curl, your personality or intelligence. For me, it was my smile so whenever I feel unconfident about myself, I would remind myself that I had a nice smile and somehow, it would make me feel a lot better about the way I looked. Even if you don’t particularly like your smile, smiling can help you stay positive, endorphins (a feel-good hormone) and relieve stress so DON’T FORGET TO SMILE . This helped me to be more assertive about other parts of my body too. I felt more assertive and accepted that my “stumpy” legs were part of my identity.
Don’t try to be perfect but instead, strive to be the best you can be. Like a New Year’s Resolution, make yourself a set of realistic goals and try to accomplish them by the end of the year.
It’s something called the ‘facial feedback theory’ where a facial expression (e.g. a smile) can have an effect on a person’s emotions. With smiles releasing endorphins, standing in front of the mirror and smiling could possibly, make your feel happier and more confident. I know it might sound weird but trust me, try it out.
In a world where beauty is valued above all else, it is difficult to change a person’s mentality on the way they look. However, with the support of friends and family, this mentality can change. If you are concerned that you or somebody you know may be acting oddly like I have previously been, make sure to talk to them or tell somebody about it.
Here’s an inspirational song you might want to listen to if you’re not feeling too good about yourself.
Also check the related topics:Body Image Eating Disorders