A shift in our culture.
Since we were young, it has been ingrained into our belief system that being thin is idolised in society. The intolerance to body diversity that exists in the world today has led us to believe that by having a slender and ‘perfect’ (what-ever that may be) body type is associated with success, popularity, fashion and beauty. From a young age we aspire to look like Barbie dolls, princes and princesses. Tiny waist. Perky boobs. Perky bum. Flawless skin. Shiny hair. Abs.
There is so much societal importance placed onto looks, something we are taught from the very first stages of life, therefore becoming deep-rooted into our ‘normal’ way of thinking. With such a strong expectation stemming from societal scrutiny and the media on what beauty is, it is no wonder that our generation have become masters at self-criticism and comparison. It makes it very easy for us to think about all the ways in which we can alter ourselves. Shrink ourselves. Fill ourselves. Making it very difficult for us to appreciate and love our bodies for what they are without feeling the urge to constantly manipulate it. We have become invested in our bodies for all the wrong reasons. Not as amazing things that bring life, experiences, love and laugher but as objects for moulding and bending so you can simply ‘fit in’ to what you think is expected of you. We have been led to believe that by being thin is better than being physically and mentally healthy. Thus, such dissatisfaction can lead to poor body image and feelings of low self-worth often extending to behaviours such as extreme dieting, extreme exercise, eating disorders and plastic surgery.
And to make matters worse, these behaviours are sensationalised by the media to the point where they are deemed as desirable. The media provides a very unrealistic and often fake depiction of reality that we feel we have this obligation to mimic. It is often rare to find someone posting on social media when they’ve had a bad day. When they’ve got a face of pimples. When they’ve just eaten the most delicious burger and feel that food baby developing. What social media does show is when our lives are in their seemingly most perfect state. When our lives are at a point that is worthy to show off. Making the rest of the world feel as though that is what they have to achieve in order to be accepted. And it doesn’t always apply to body shape. It can be to do with clothes, jobs, holidays, relationships. The media is constantly being projected through rose coloured glasses for our often ignorant eyes to absorb.
Understandably, cultures and expectations of body type shifts over time. In the 18th and 19th century, youth were more concerned about whether they were being a kind friend or helping with the family chores. And now, due to the media and the diet industry, youths are concerned about whether they are fat or thin, tall or short. As Joan Jacobs of the Body Project said; "We have shifted from inner beauty to outer beauty."
Now, it is our job to re-wire our way of thinking to know that it’s not us that needs to change, but the culture. We need to stop associating food with weight and instead associate it with experiences and energy. To stop comparing ourselves to those around and to acknowledge that every body is different and every body is beautiful. To learn to move and be active not because you think that is what society expects of you, but because you want to. To choose a burger instead of a salad because you know that that is what you want and what you crave. And to put our wasted energy thinking about body size into real things that matter; relationships, jobs, experiences, volunteering, love.
But most importantly, we need to learn to appreciate our bodies for what they are. Whether you are tall, short, have short legs, long legs, a small waist, wide waist. You need to learn to accept everything as you are and to stop criticising yourself just because you may not fit the mould of what society expects. You are your biggest companion. Be kind to yourself. You will be in a much happier place if you do.