This is a piece on body image written by two writers—one female and one male—to present perspectives from both genders.
By Sonia Shrestha
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has undergone through to achieve that beauty.” ~ Maya Angelou
Being a figure with flesh and bones in today’s world is not easy; you have to follow the norms and standards set by society.
These are rules that cripple you from within, the paradigms that break your self-confidence and make you feel worthless many times.
Each body is different, with its own unique shape, size and attractiveness. Every day we read or hear people talk about how important it is for us to love and respect our body, but it is easier to say than to do. The same society that asks us to respect our body as it is is the one to pinpoint the various deficiencies we possess. This society binds us in the chains of beauty and attractiveness.
We are inundated with judgements about body image in our society.
In fact, body image and judgement around body image are both an integral part of our society’s narrative at almost every level. Are you hot, handsome, sexy, gorgeous, ugly, dowdy, beautiful, puny, nerdy, etc…?
Ascribing a definition to physical looks is not new and in fact, it is part of the human condition to make these defining judgements, at times, in order for us to communicate. These definitions do change over time. What looks hot today, may look ugly tomorrow (think mullet…okay, I had to go there). The point is that one’s body image is, in large part, formed by all of the images, definitions and experiences that we encounter.
In the 19 years of my existence, I have felt let down by those around me so many times that it has finally stopped bothering me. I have started turning a blind eye towards all those who think my physical features are all is there to me; I have learnt to ignore those who choose to forget the love I am capable of providing. It is not easy to go out every single day and face the world—the world that may condemn me for my physical traits.
Being a girl is not easy, and never has been. We females have historically been looked upon as objects of beauty to be showcased in front of the world.
I know the struggle of walking around each day with hundreds of eyes following you, judging you by your physical features. I do not have the perfect body—definitely not how the society wants it to be. I do not come in the category of “hot” girls and I do not have the perfect figure. On the contrary, I have a body shape that many find unacceptable. Why? Because having a small bulge in the tummy does not make you beautiful.
“Why do you not do something about it?”
“Why do you not try and reduce it?”
“Why do you eat so much?”
“Haven’t you seen your tummy?”
These are some of the comments I hear every single day from people who are close to me—friends, sometimes best friends.
I was never too comfortable with my body.
I have always had problems with it—always had issues with the way my body looked and felt. I lived half of my teenage years worrying about the way I looked. Worrying about how society viewed me, my body became the most important thing for me—not because I wanted to see it healthy but because I wanted to be accepted by the ones around me. I did not want to be judged based on my physical features.
The slightest remarks had the ability to hamper my mood for days. I tried everything, from not eating much to jumping around, trying to sweat the fat out. Nothing worked. I let society break my self-esteem by allowing myself be bent by those remarks and comments.
Curbing our need to accept our own bodies and faces even more, application developers have created photo and editing applications that supposedly make you look more “beautiful” and “acceptable.” Applications such as Candy Camera and Retrica have taken over the world with a storm. Girls all over take selfies using these apps in order to look beautiful, without any flaws. I am a culprit too. I, too, use these apps to make myself look better by snapping filtered selfies.
Today, I do not care.
I still have not managed to achieve the perfect figure, but now, the comments and remarks do not break my confidence. Yes, it matters sometimes. A sudden snarky comment can make me feel low, but not for long. I have learnt to pick myself up, head held up high, and walk with confident strides. Is that not what matters? How you carry yourself in front of those thousands trying to bring you down?
Now, I have realised, if I do not learn how to love my own image, I will never be able to expect that from someone else.
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
If only I had understood the real meaning of this phrase earlier, I would not have wasted my teen years worrying over it.
If only eyes could see the soul that remains hidden inside, if only hearts had the power of speaking louder that the body fat.
Sonia Shrestha is a literature student who is on a journey to know herself, passionate about reading and writing. A quote-aholic (totally addicted to quotes), she loves to find her own meanings in words and loves deep and meaningful conversations. A good book and comfortable surrounding is all she needs.
By Michael Posey
This morning my 4-year old daughter says to me “Daddy…I wish I were blonde.”
I ask her why and she says, “Because Gracie is blonde and gets more happy grams at school than I do.” I say, “Well sweetie, that’s not because she’s blonde.”
She replies, “Well blondes get everything. Grady is blonde and he always gets stuff.”
My little Punkin’s comments had so many levels to them, that I spent the whole day pondering what it all meant. How in the world would a four year old child think that a physical trait would be the reason people have privilege? Wait! When I truly think about it…how in the world a child would not think that physical traits are important in today’s world!
When I reflect on my own body image and all that it means, it certainly has changed over time, and I would venture to say that, sometimes, it even changes day-to-day depending on my mood or health. My body image is certainly affected by what I read, see, hear and experience. It also causes me confusion and angst from time to time.
As a kid, I was extremely skinny.
I was tall (I am 6′ 2) but I had not yet filled out. In fact, my grandpa used to say that if I stood sideways he could not see me. I had also had surgery when I was young which caused one shoulder to be slightly lower than the other and left a big scar around my chest. I was very self-conscience about this because I felt like a nerd. I felt puny and wimpy.
Most likely because of the images that I saw on cartoons and movies and things I read or comments I heard that were made at school. I have always had a big ego when it came to everything else in my life and I was usually very confident! As far as my body from my hair down to my toes was concerned though, I hated it all. I felt inadequate.
No matter what intelligence or talents I had, I still hated myself and felt wimpy.
Just as my daughter vocalized today, when I was a kid, I linked looks with being special. Although I have filled out since I was a kid, and am proud of my accomplishments in many arenas, I still have a bad self-concept of my body and looks. I see all the “pretty people” walking about in stage or screen. I see a guy on the street who looks “cool” and I wish I looked like he does.
Now that I am approaching 50, I see younger guys and wish that I did not have salt and pepper hair and that this or that wrinkle did not exist. In other words, I am constantly looking outside of myself to define my own looks. Magazines, movies, television, all form my definition of style and looks.
I will be the first one to admit that it seems as if in our society, males have it much easier than females in terms of how we define good looks. The ratio of men’s fashion magazines, shows, etc. to women’s is probably 1:20, but the pressures exist nonetheless. It seems as if men can get away with being less “put together” than women can in our society.
As men age, they fill out, become “distinguished” and they tell me gray hair on a male can be attractive.
Although this may be true, I still feel a lot of pressure to look younger. I have tried to embrace my age and looks as “distinguished,” experienced, features but inside my head is still that little kid feeling wimpy and homely.
I cannot help it when all I see are young studs in the media gallivanting shirtless with their six-pack abs. Or when I see female friends post or comment on pictures on Facebook of hunky guys who are maybe 21 or 22, if that. I do not see the comments and likes about middle-aged gray haired guys.
Please do not think I am just blaming the media. I realize there are hard, proven, biological evolutionary mechanisms that make us desire symmetry, youth and healthiness in other humans. It’s natural then that we as a species project those in our media onto our definition of beauty. It is who we are.
I guess in many ways, we have done this to ourselves and that we cannot help it in a way. We all want to look good. We define what beauty is as a collective. What is difficult and what takes the most work is not necessarily to define beauty—because society will always define it for you, like it or not; but rather to control how you judge beauty. For in judging beauty is where the angst occurs and it’s what keeps us all from never being satisfied with our looks or the looks of others.
In essence, we should all try to live by the old adage: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” After all, that is a beautiful saying!
Society has made it hard for both men and women; there is hardly any discrimination here. We need to accept ourselves the way we are. No matter how difficult or hard to achieve, we need to respect our body and embrace it in its true self. Let the world know you are enough for yourself and the world will gradually stop bothering you.
We may not be happy with the bodies we are carrying. Our body fat may make us hang our heads down, but we are learning. We are trying to accept ourselves just as we are without trying to bring ourselves down. We want to make a promise to ourselves that we will respect our body and treat it the way it deserves to be treated. It does not require billion dollar cosmetics or treatments; what it needs is a bit of nurturing and love.
Sending out love to everyone who is trying to love him or herself in a world where everyone is telling them not to. Go ahead and love your beautifully flawed self. Love yourself, treat your body right and face the world with a smile!
And as Amy Bloom says, “You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
Love and hugs.
Mike Posey, Ph.D. is a program chair and professor of popular culture and interpersonal communication in Columbus, OH. Years ago, before becoming a full-time academic, Mike generally wandered around doing a wide variety of things including being the founder and CEO of a tech company, a corporate VP, a concert promoter, a sales associate, a DJ, a cheesy cable TV show host, and basically trying most anything that he was interested in. While others may have seen aimless meandering, he calls it eclectic experience. He is currently in demand as a speaker and facilitator on topics such as relationships, communication, and motivation. Mike is a father of 5 amazing children ranging in ages from 24 to 4. This keeps him happy, busy, and broke. He can be reached at www.mikeposey.com or @drmikeposey
Feature photo: (source)
Editor: Dana Gornall