The contempary society gives a lot of importance to appearances. Looks,outward appearance,clothes,body size and all the peripheral things hold so much of importance in this day and age that it affects each one of us,knowingly or unknowingly. Since birth we see beauty ideals on TV and in our toys and thus start considering it as ‘normal’. For example,take Barbies. Many young girls believe that every normal girl looks like the doll,that one needs to have that figure and perfect skin. However,this development is natural and these perceptions are formed unknowingly.
How many of us have complained about our size? Looked at the mirror and seen a fat ugly person stare right back at us? At least I have. I have always been a fat kid. It was cute till I was 13 and later made me realize that people either felt sorry for me or had a problem with my size. I was fat but not unhealthy. Somehow my weight was fine and so was my height. I could run and do almost everything,except impressing people. The guys didn’t have a crush on me and the girls thought I was ugly,I was the last one to be selected for the sports teams. So finally I gave up. I gave up and started binge eating. I decided that I was too abnormal to function and I deserved this. I even started starving myself and exercising too much until my mother saw the change. She asked me all about it and made me realize that size really doesn’t matter. Now I’m eighteen and still not skinny,a size 8, and happy. I’m confident about myself and I know I’m healthy and beautiful,and that is all that matters.
Recently I was reading about ‘ugliest woman on earth’. One of them is anorexic. You know why? Because when she was 12,somebody called her ‘too fat to exist’,and since then she became bulimic. One small comment spoiled this woman’s entire life. She can never be okay,she can never truly live. I find it sad to see young girls worrying about their weight and young men wanting to have six pack abs. Wasn’t childhood the period of innocence when all we cared about was what to play and eat?
Advertising and media too play a major role in the setting up of this mindset. Ads have only airbrushed photo shopped size 0 models,men with perfect abs and jawlines and when we look at them and compare,we realize we look different. And looking like that is what is important.
So what is body image? ‘Body image is the picture we have of our bodies at rest or in motion at any moment. It is from internal sensations,postural changes,contact with outside objects and people,and our emotional experiences and fantasies’ (Freedman 1998, Salkin 1973). According to Hutchinson (1985), body image includes feelings,attitudes, and beliefs about our bodies. Basically,body image is what we think of ourselves and what image of self we have in our minds. The way we look at ourselves.
We start to develop a sense of self and self identity in early childhood. These are the first moments of developing self image. However,the initially formed body image is subject to further modification.
Our body satisfaction relates strongly to our self esteem. The society has formed some unwritten norms about the way a person should look,what is ‘attractive’ and what is ‘ugly’.
Symmetrical features,silky voluminous hair,long neck,busty and voluptuous or totally skinny girls are what media projects to be beautiful. All the airbrushed models have been known to give complex to young and old women alike. One in four adolescent girls have admitted that they’re on a diet. Even young men,tall dusky handsome and strong groomed men is what the media shows and what every male wants to look like. However,these pressures are mostly linked to depression in case of women because of the constant ‘need to look ‘sexy’. While this image of perfection is portrayed by the media,we as the citizens of the society feel the need to conform to it and every time we see ourselves in the mirror,all we see is our imperfections staring back at us. We think we are too fat,too dark,too short or anything that is not what we see on the billboards. This decreases our confidence.
We keep buying products to be fairer,to be thinner,to be taller and look like what the society wants us to look like. We buy diet food,we starve ourselves and be dissatisfied forever. There is no perfect look. This is a vicious cycle. Once we enter the circle of self loathing,we can never love ourselves enough. We never will. And one day we will die. We will die thinking we were not perfect.
We are unable to love ourselves because we think nobody can love us. This need to look just like what society thinks is likeable. This mentality needs to change.
The link between body image and self esteem is simple,we look at ourselves and are always critical. We never look like the models because the models themselves don’t look like that. We have set unattainable standards of beauty as ideal and when we fail to achieve that,a feeling of worthlessness starts to set in.
It is this direct relation that so many suicides and cases of anorexia and bulimia come up. As long as we are physically fit,it is what’s on the inside that matters.
So let’s all join hands and together as a community learn to accept diversity in true form. Let’s stop body shaming others and realize their internal struggles. Let’s live and let live.