What is beauty? Who sets “beauty” norms? Do we really have to comply with these norms? How can we encourage a healthier body image?
Society sets certain standards and characteristics for a woman to be defined as “beautiful”. These standards include hair quality, body shape and dimensions, and skin color. Society plays a huge role in how women perceive their bodies and even has a hand in shaking women’s body image. We all have our insecurities whether regarding weight or physical appearance. These insecurities can be accentuated when highlighted by society. Certain people whether they are friends, family even people you don’t know keep on commenting and criticizing on the way you look either you’re too fat or too skinny. Body shaming is the practice of criticizing oneself or another individual’s body shape or size. Body shaming is a form of bullying that can result in severe emotional trauma, especially at a young age. As it is done by family members it can be done by friends, enemies, and total strangers and is often portrayed in the media since we live in a society that values being slim and thin as something people should definitely worship.
Although body shaming is related with physical appearance, it has a lot to do with mental health. Being body shamed can affect the way you perceive yourself, you can even start reconsidering the way you look and try to fit to these norms society imposes. Body shaming can have an impact on mental health, it may lead to depression, self-loathing, and even social isolation. Negative comments on looks may even lead some people to attempt suicide.
Body shaming can lead to eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia. Anorexia is when a person starves themselves intensely in order to lose weight, while bulimia is the total opposite where a person eats intensely to gain weight. Both these eating disorders, effect the usual body metabolism and lead to undernourishment, diabetes, or other chronic illnesses. Furthermore, the criticism that people who are exposed to body shaming face can lead to a serious mental disorder which is body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which one can’t quit criticizing themselves even the tiniest deformities or blemishes in their appearance that can’t even be seen by others. This insecurity may lead the person to avoid socializing. This obsessive mental disease entails consulting a psychiatrist to be solved.
There is beauty in diversity and differences. The “perfect” body showcased on TV or social media is just a myth and a social construction which we have to resist. The fact that these norms are not stagnant and can vary from one year to another proves that they are socially constructed. Each year beauty standards differ with the trend. If Marilyn Monroe, the golden age icon, was living in this era she would be body shamed for having a full figure. Being thin and having no body fat are no longer trending, this standard started to fade away with the rise of new trends in the 2000s. The airing of the reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians gave birth to new beauty standards. “Beautiful” women are supposed to have a large posterior and breasts plus a thigh gap and a thin waste. These trends have been sculpting female bodies and minds. Women are even resorting to plastic surgery to get this “perfect” body. Staying fit and healthy is one thing, but trying to fit into standards of other people that are defined by unreal parameters can lead to an even unhealthier life; physically, mentally, and socially. Let us be who we are, let’s be authentic because the number on a weighing scale does not define us.
Body image and self-esteem start from within. Body image is mental and emotional, a healthy body image means that you truly and genuinely accept and love the way you look. Beyond weight and shape, we have other qualities that make us stand out.
If you don’t like your body or the way you look, it’s hard to feel good about your whole self. If you don’t value yourself, it’s hard to notice the good things and give your body the respect it deserves. The fact that you will focus on your shortcomings or insecurities will affect your feelings towards yourself. Negative thinking has a way of leading to more negative thinking. Self-love and self-acceptance are important to overcome body shaming. The first step to body positivity is self-acceptance. Self-esteem is giving value and respecting yourself regardless of what others think of you. It directly impacts how you treat yourself, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Self-esteem is about you inside out, not just your physical appearance. Good self-esteem starts from within. Love, value and respect yourself first and don’t expect anyone to do that for you unless you do it first.
A positive body does not only entail to attain a certain figure but also to be healthy. Eating healthy food, keeping hydrated and exercising leads to one having a healthy and positive body. Finally, we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others. We are all unique in our own ways. Every single inch of you is beautiful and should be equally appreciated and loved. Embrace your insecurities and never be ashamed of anything your body went through. Never let people influence the way you look at yourself, wear whatever you feel like wearing and never stop feeling good about yourself. Love yourself unconditionally.
About the author:
Farah Kanbi born and raised in Tunisia and currently living in Italy. She holds a BA in International Relation, a MA in International Relations, and a MA in International Cooperation, Development, and Migration. She has always been passionate for human rights and giving voice for the voiceless. Farah is interested in human trafficking, migrations studies, refugees and stateless persons’ rights. She has an experience for women rights advocacy with CREDIF, Center for Research, Studies, Documentation and Information on Women. She worked on several campaigns with CREDIF like calling for women participation in politics and local affairs, and gender-based violence in the public sphere. She is currently volunteering for Centro Astalli Palermo, working on accompanying, serving and defending the rights of refugees, from both North and Sub-Saharan Africa, who flee their homes and come to Italy asking for protection. She is also member of the youth-led initiative Politics4Her.