Everyday, by way of television, ads, film, magazines, and society, women are bombarded with unrealistic standards of beauty. As a result of indirect messages, women have been conditioned throughout the centuries to believe that beauty is a universal one-size-fits-all model.
Tall, paper-thin, long, straight hair, blue eyes has been the standard of beauty for ages. Any variation is often non-existent or not considered beautiful.
We live in an overly superficial world where a heavy emphasis is placed on physical appearance. Women are constantly trying to live up to the body images represented by celebrities and models because those are the images that dominate the media. The added pressure of men — the people who have created these unrealistic body images (patriarchy anyone?) — has led most women to, at some point, disapprove of their bodies.
Over on YouTube, I watched a shocking video titled “Body Image Statistics.” Among the number of disturbing statistics, I discovered the heartbreaking fact that many girls begin to dislike their bodies at as early an age as 10.
From the video:
- More than 50% of 10-year-old girls wish they were thinner.
- 8 million people in the US suffer from an eating disorder, 90% of them are women/girls.
- 8 out 10 women are not happy with their reflection.
- Americans spend more than 40 billion dollars a year on diet and beauty products.
- The current media ideal of thinness is achieved by less than 5% of the female population.
We have a drastic problem when 50% of 10-year-old girls wish that they were thinner. Part of the problem is the limiting visual representations of women in the media. Women in commercials, magazine ads, on television, and in film are typically thin. Only in the last few years have plus-sized models even been considered attractive enough to walk the runways or be featured in ads for jeans. The plus-sized demographic, however, is not enough to change centuries of perpetuating a single body type as the ideal.
Although I see a slight improvement (and I do mean slight) in the diversification of media images of women, it will take years to undo the conditioning of women regarding the idea of what beauty looks like. As women it is imperative to love ourselves and be happy with our bodies. No one can do that for us.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Being comfortable in your own skin in a society that promotes big boobs, slim waists, and long legs as the norm is difficult. We have all suffered from moments when people in our lives (in addition to the media images) have made us feel as if our bodies are inadequate. But we can choose between believing this norm, or accepting our bodies and the ways in which they are made. Unfortunately, society will always tell women that we are too thin or too fat, or that our breasts are too small or too big, our hair too curly and our thighs too big — and so on.
We don’t have to believe the hype.
Along with accepting our bodies, we have to become serious about our health. It is important to love our bodies the way they are, but also be realistic when asking ourselves if we are living the best healthy life that we possibly can.
It took me years, and I still am working on it, to accept my petite frame. I hated being small. I was always teased, and complete strangers would offensively comment on my weight, and I am from the south where “thick” and curvier women were the ones deemed beautiful. And although I’ve accepted that my metabolism is high, and I will probably never gain more than 10 pounds, I also know that I am not physically in shape just because I’m petite. Therefore, I constantly have to think about the types of food I’m eating, and check that I’m drinking enough water and exercising (which I seriously loathe).
Loving and accepting our bodies for how they are doesn’t mean we get a pass on ignoring the unhealthy aspects of our lives. Totally love your full-figure. But if, deep down, you know that you are 10 pounds overweight and would be healthier if you changed your dietary habits and lost that extra weight — by all means do it. The same concept applies to thin women. Just because you are thin doesn’t mean you are healthy. That is a common misconception. It’s all about balance.
Loving our bodies is at the core. Despite the images we see and the messages that society tells us, we have to feel great just being the way we are. Once we fully love our bodies, we will want to do everything possible to be healthy. I want to see women living long, fulfilled, healthy lives!