You saw a woman and thought she was pretty. She can be someone you are close to, work with, a celebrity or a random person you saw on the street. What did she look like? Was she fair and thin? More importantly, was her appearance drastically different from how you look?
Body image is how you perceive your appearance, how attractive you think you are, or how much you don’t like the way you look. It can be positive or negative but we all wish we were a little thinner or fairer or our noses could be a little sharper. Women are often forced to feel like they don’t fit into the conventional standards of beauty. The “norm” as they say, are the images of women that are fed to us through the media; women with slender bodies, long, perfect hair and flawless skin. Women with features that make you hate the rolls of your tummy, your unruly hair, or even an inkling of the sign that you have body hair.
A negative body image can lead susceptible individuals like teenagers to eating disorders, depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and low self-esteem. The toxic diet culture that tells you that you are one cleanse away from achieving your ideal body or the videos that flood your feed and promise you that you lose 10 kg in 10 days reinforce in us the idea that the way we look needs to be “fixed”.
The body positivity movement aims to advocate to have a positive body image. It tells you not only to be comfortable in your skin but also to love it. Regardless of your size, gender, skin tone, or physical ability, you should be able to feel beautiful. As noble as the cause is, it is difficult for many of us to actually imbibe it into our lives. The body neutrality movement on the other hand tells you to ignore your bodies. It takes the focus away from your appearance to your capabilities. You are what you are, what you say, and what you can do.
Even if you choose to love your body, you are still made to be conscious. The media or those people who feel the need to comment on your appearance are not going anywhere anytime soon. Our insecurities are capitalised and marketed to us in the form of cosmetic products, diets, and easy fixes for weight loss. The onus of loving ourselves feels heavy on our shoulders with their weight.
Although it might seem difficult, there are a few ways to get ahead of the toxicity of having to hate ourselves for eating an extra slice of cake. Stop commenting on people’s bodies unless they bring it up. Do not equate being thin to being fit. There are many people who don’t fit into the conventional standards of being “healthy” who have 100% healthy lifestyles. Refuse to let others dictate how beautiful you should feel. Remember that weight is just a number.
Body image has become inextricably linked to self-love. However, one must never forget about what sets the standards of beauty in our society. The voluptuous body type popularised by the Kardashians only replaced the ‘heroin chic’ (extremely thin and anorexic) look that women once aspired to look like. The people who set these standards are constantly body-shamed, photoshopped, and turned to plastic for us to admiringly gaze upon. The next time you want to feel beautiful, look at the person next to you. It could be your mom, a friend, or your partner. Do you really care about how they look to find them beautiful? Why does the way you perceive yourself have to be any different?
Aparna Mammen is an intern with SheThePeople.Tv