It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is body image. While for some people this is a more dire issue than others, such as people with eating disorders and body dysmorphia, it’s something that impacts us all to some extent.
Societal standards of beauty have changed over time, but what doesn’t seem to change is the fact that these standards are drilled into people from a very early age. We are constantly being shown what supposedly ideal beauty looks like, and the chances of being able to live up to those ideals are slim to nil. We are told that we need to fit society’s concept of beauty in order to be accepted, have worth, and be successful. We’re taught that unless we look the way that society expects us to, we’re not good enough. When mental illness is already telling us we’re not good enough, shame around body image is the last thing we need.
At least back in the day when I was young, supposed perfection came from what we saw on the big screen, on tv, or in magazines, and while that was bad enough we always knew there was a distance between them and us. Now, in the age of social media, regular people can become insta-famous. The divide between us and them seems to narrow, which likely creates even more to look a certain way. Humanity is so imperfect, and the great Instagram shot that took two hours to get plus the application of filters is just not representative of the genuine human experience.
As much as possible I try to steer clear of anything non-body-positive online, and I find it hard to imagine what it must be like to be a teenager today, when all that seems to matter to most people is how you look in your pictures online. It’s such a superficial idea of beauty that says nothing about the person on the inside.
For the first half of my adult life, I was a size 8 or so. I’ve always had a pretty sizeable booty, which I was okay with, but I wished I was bustier. I was never one of the pretty girls, but luckily in my group of friends that was never too much of an issue, and therefore body image wasn’t a big problem. If it hadn’t been for a group of friends in both high school and university that were okay with being imperfect, I think it would have been much harder to detail with the weight gain that came later on when I started taking my current cocktail of psychiatric meds. As it was, it was hard enough dealing with people asking if I was pregnant when the weight really started to accumulate in my abdomen.
During the course of my illness, I’ve been skinny when I’ve been the most sick, and fat at my most medicated. It’s really made me challenge that culturally ingrained notion that skinnier is better. Based on BMI, I’m considered obese. But it is what it is, and going off meds isn’t an option for me.
I’m glad there are more plus size models promoting body positivity whatever your size. It’s unfortunate that the average woman’s body is supposedly plus size, but it’s still a refreshing change to the size 0 models that we see so often. We need to see that people come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and those differences do not in any way diminish anyone’s value.
I like the picture to the right because this baby is totally fascinated with him/herself. Our bodies do so many amazing things for us, and they deserve our love.
You may want to check out my review of Eat the Damn Muffin, which is a great book about loving your body exactly the way it is.
You may also be interested in a more recent post on this topic, What Do You See In The Mirror?