Conversations about body image have always been difficult for me. I feel that many people in my life would say I show a lot of confidence. Though to me this was a front to bandage up the wounds I didn’t realise I had and the wounds I ignored. These are still healing to this day but I’m proud of myself. For many girls (and boysthough I can’t speak on men’s behalf) when we are growing up, we quickly pick up the toxic beauty standards our society expects us to achieve. We get conditioned into thinking we must be skinny and pretty. Whilst younger girls may not understand these ideals, they still try to recreate themselves to fit this beauty standard. As we grow up, we then realise and learn that these standards go more in depth and are unrealistic. We can’t be too skinny, but not fat. We must be pretty, but it needs to be natural so don’t wear makeup. But when we don’t wear makeup someone comments and says, ‘why aren’t you wearing makeup, you look terrible’ (quote from my own experiences). These are what every girl has heard in their life and what every girl will eventually hear (unless we change our society now). It’s not until recently I have learnt to ignore these comments and ideals because they can be so mentally damaging. But worse yet these beauty standards are so normalised that when I started to break away from these manufactured beauty standards, I felt weird for trying to love my body for what it was. Through watching therapists and other women’s experiences and how they have grown and reading books I have realised and learnt so many things. One book which has struck me is called ‘Women don’t owe you pretty’ by Florence Given. It explains why we feel so pressured to look a certain way but also expands onto how people of colour, black people, people with disabilities are discriminated against when it comes to body image too. I feel for many people who are struggling with body image and selfesteem, to read and hear another point of view is so helpful. It puts the things we always think about into perspective and can take us out of a damaging cycle of thinking. In my own experiences when having a hard time about my body image, it becomes the only thing I think about. It starts to become an obsession. But now with the education I have given myself, I know that I don’t have to feel the things I’ve felt. That my body is a blessing.
To everyone struggling, I ask that you listen to a positive outside voice. Whilst I believe talking about body image to another person is important, I understand why someone wouldn’t want to speak about how they feel. So instead, write down your feelings and thoughts, then listen to people who talk about body image in a supportive environment (I would listen to Tedtalks too). You can start to evaluate why you feel certain things about why you have body image issues, but you must look at your situation from a different point of view. Which Tedtalks, books, podcasts etc can be wonderful for, when reaching out for a different perspective. These are things I have found helpful and I hope I can help other people to accept themselves.
The society we have currently can be beautiful, kind, and incredible. However, there are still many downsides to the world we live in. I believe that to change the world it must start small. If anyone you know is struggling, if you are struggling, I challenge you to challenge your thoughts. Why do you think you have to look a certain way?
When I challenged my thinking, it took all the power my damaging thoughts had and made these thoughts nothing but… thoughts. By taking the power away I could think objectively about why I felt the way I did, and this gave me a sense of security that I wasn’t crazy, or weird. I know that talking about body image can be difficult, so if you don’t feel ready to speak about it, then try out the things I said earlier in this article. As the one person we must live with for the rest of our lives is… ourselves. The person who understands you best is yourself. It may not be as easy as you think, and if its difficult to even write down your feelings. Take your time, breathe, and know everything will be okay. These thoughts and feelings will not last forever, you will grow into the best version of yourself and last of all…
I believe in you.