In today’s world, we can not escape constant comparisons. On Instagram, guys show off their muscles and women flaunt their smooth skin, leaving viewers who maybe don’t look like them thinking, “I wish I could look like that.” It is so hard to escape the constant comparison to others, and it, unfortunately, could lead to poor body image and low self-acceptance. To quote the timeless classic, “Mean Girls,” “Apparently there’s lots of things that can be wrong with your body.” But, how could we work on our self-acceptance and body positivity?
The first step
Self-acceptance and body positivity are obviously incredibly important in order to live a full and happy life, but it is a difficult concept to put into practice when we are constantly bombarded with photo-shopped images of celebrities with teams of stylists and personal trainers. These are presented to us as though they are the norm that we must strive to attain. It is an impossible standard, and it is hurting us in our everyday lives. How many of us have abstained from a beach day with family or friends because we were not confident enough to don a swimsuit? Or suffered through a hot day in pants because we did not have the time to shave our legs? Or put ourselves at real risk of developing skin cancer by spending time in tanning beds? Quite a few of us, according to Psychology Today. An international survey recording the first 4,000 responses showed that 56 percent of women and 43 percent of men are dissatisfied with their overall appearance. These percentages go up as specific areas of the body are taken into consideration.
It would seem these worries are misplaced. The media is slowly starting to shine light on the issue that our perception of our own attractiveness often does not match what others see when they look at us. Take for example Dove’s “You’re More Beautiful Than You Think” campaign. People are each asked to describe themselves to an FBI-trained forensic artist who cannot see them. He draws them according to their description, and then does a second drawing of how a stranger describes them. The difference is astounding, and clearly shows that we are our own worst critics.
What does it mean to be beautiful?
Body image becomes even more complex when we take into consideration what a subjective concept beauty is and how it continually evolves over time. While many women spend thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgeries such a breast augmentation, many others have lamented their “top heaviness.” In some cultures, a unibrow is considered a sign of beauty. Curves were highly coveted as recently as 50 years ago, with women like Marilyn Monroe setting the bar with her voluptuous figure. A glance at some samples of Renaissance art show that fair-skinned women were revered. But none of this should really matter. As American lexicographer Erin McKean once said, “You don’t owe prettiness to anyone … Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space …”
Unfortunately, learning not to expend energy worrying whether you are attractive to others is much easier said than done. So for today, I suggest taking an inventory of your physical features and learning to think about them in a positive light. I, for example, have taken almost 30 years to come to terms with my pale complexion. I am very fair-skinned, and I am never going to be tan. So instead of obsessing over lying in the sun and inevitably burning myself, thereby causing myself pain and potential long-term complications, I have decided to take pride in my skin tone. There is no reason why pale cannot be just as pretty as tan!
Shelby Oakley, 26, has also struggled with her body image. For her it was her muscular thighs that she disliked. “For the longest time, I’ve tried leaning out, hoping I’d lose some thigh space,” she said. However, she has grown to love and accept herself as is and now takes pride in her strong legs. So, think about the physical traits have you been trying to hide or change and instead embrace them as part of who you are.