(Content warning: body shaming, body image)
In recent years, it seems body image has become an even bigger issue than ever before. No matter who you are or what size you are, these days low self-esteem is so prevalent that it’s almost the norm. Approximately 80% of adults suffer from body image issues, and this knowledge left me wondering, what can we can do to change that?
If you look at the media today, there is quite a strict female body type being promoted. Now I know what you’re thinking, “yes they’re all meant to be thin”. However, that isn’t always the case. Take a look at Victoria’s Secret models for example; the majority of these girls are thin, but this contrasts with the message in the song “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, which promotes the bigger woman instead. It seems in the media and popular culture, neither body type can exist without shaming the opposing one. It’s as though Victoria’s Secret is shaming bigger sized women by exclusion and lack of representation, as they rarely feature people of those sizes, making them feel less sexy and pretty and making them unhappy with their bodies.
Although more common, it isn’t just bigger body types that are victim to shaming, as Meghan Trainor also shames thinner women in her song, calling them ‘skinny bitches’, which is derogatory towards their appearance too. Neither body type can exist without creating some sort of discontent about the other. And that in itself really doesn’t help people to love their bodies because how they look is constantly being judged and, depending on the media outlet you look at, criticised both negatively and positively.
I have a bigger body type compared to some people and it can be difficult to see smaller women and not compare, or wish I looked like them. Yet there are many people I know who are slim but would love to be my size! But it can be hard for them to get there. Some people who are thinner are just naturally like that, their metabolisms are a lot faster so they digest food a lot quicker meaning that naturally, they just don’t put on weight. This isn’t their fault and it’s unfair for them to get body shamed because of it. People don’t criticise others for going on diets and trying to lose weight, so why should people who are trying to put on weight to get to a healthy size be criticised?
Body shaming about anyone’s body is definitely not okay, and it can have serious effects on people. Something that goes unnoticed however, is that body shaming also happens to men. The media mainly focus on how women are unhappy with how they look and how they struggle with confidence issues, yet it is often exactly the same in men too. I know many men who are unhappy with how they look, and just like women, it makes them self-conscious. Society’s idea of the ideal man is portrayed as muscular and fit, with the perfectly toned body. Men who don’t fit this ideal can feel very insecure about it, and when this happens to women there is uproar, so why not with men too?
Men’s personal feelings matter just as much as women’s, and them feeling comfortable in their own skin is just as important as women feeling comfortable. To all the men out there, what you see in the media today is not how all men look! And if you don’t fit that profile then that doesn’t make you any less of a person. Some people are naturally more muscular than others, some aren’t, that’s just how life works and it’s not fair to start comparing yourself because of it. No doubt there’s someone out there who loves how you look, and hopefully one day you will too.
The same goes out to the men who are muscular. If you’re like that or want to be like that then good for you! Embrace it, and don’t let anyone drag you down because of it, if you like how you look then go for it. No one else should matter because making yourself happy is the most important thing in the world.
The only time it should be remotely okay to mention how someone looks is if you are worried for their health. If you know them, and you know that their weight or how they look is unhealthy in any way, that is when you should speak out. Even then, there are nicer ways to go about it. Mention to them that you’re worried about them, or maybe they could do with changing aspects of their diet or lifestyle, then offer them help if they need it. There are so many nicer ways to confront these issues than just outright calling someone out over it, and the kinder you are about it, the more likely you are to get through to the person and benefit them.
Unless you want to change something about yourself, like going to the gym to get a bit fitter, or switching to a healthier diet so you can feel better in yourself, then nobody else has the right to bring you down. No matter who that person is, they don’t own your body, you do! The only approval you need on how you look is your own, and once you get there then you’ll probably realise that everyone around you has always loved you for you regardless. You are strong, inside and out.
There will be times where you’ll stumble and something or someone will get to you and yes, it may chip your confidence. But that won’t last forever, because you’re still the amazing person you were before and if you can’t build your confidence back up alone then don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Whether it be professional or just asking a friend for a boost every now and again. It’s natural to stumble, but it only means you have the chance to build yourself back up stronger than ever before.
I once heard someone say that the only thing you should ask yourself is two questions:
1. Are you happy?
2. Are you healthy?
She said that if the answer to both those questions is yes, then go on as you are and don’t let anyone stop you from doing that. If your answer to one or both is no, then maybe there are things you can do to change that, but always make sure the reason you’re doing them is for you and no one else.
At the end of the day, your body is yours to do with what you like and if you’re happy with how you look then it is important to embrace that. If anyone says different then ignore them. You should be your own priority and what you think of yourself is the most important thing in the world. People come in all shapes and sizes and that is a good thing! Perfection as society defines it is impossible anyway, so live your life how you want and remember to be happy in whatever you do.
There is no right or wrong way to look. If you’re happy then try to love yourself, whatever your gender. No one body type is perfect and it’s time to start embracing what you look like, no matter what shape or size you are, because I can guarantee there are so many people around who already love how you look and are just waiting for that time for you to love yourself too. You’ll get there, I know it. It just takes some time. Stay strong and you can get through anything.
You’re amazing and you’re stronger than what hurtful things people may say, even if you don’t realise it yet.