We are a society that is obsessed with appearances. It’s a frequent topic of discussion. We rail about the unrealistic standards of “perfection” set forth in advertisements.
Not only is the physical body type of models representative of a very small percentage of our population, but their pictures are Photoshopped, sometimes to the point the models’ own mothers wouldn’t recognize them.
Because of these unrealistic standards of beauty, we have raised cultural awareness of the importance of a positive body image. While treatment for the mental and emotional disorders that stem from a negative body image is essential, there has been an increased focus on helping people develop a positive body image early in life to avoid those issues altogether. This is progress.
But despite all of the awareness and discussion about the unattainable standards of beauty we see in ads, there seems to be a lingering expectation, or perhaps a lingering hope, that we can still achieve that type of “perfection.”
It is important to have a positive body image, but we also need to get to a point where the perception of our bodies is less important than it is now.
By body image I do not necessarily mean “self-image.” I am also talking about the way we view the bodies of others. Body image should not be the most important part of our identities.
Recently, I heard someone identify me as “the big girl.” I wasn’t particularly offended; that is a realistic way to describe me.
But I’m also short, have brown hair and blue eyes, wear hoodies every single day and can unintentionally be a bit of a Hermione Granger in class. Those are also realistic ways to describe me.
Out of all of the things I am and all the things I do, why should my weight be a central part of my identity, to me or to anyone else?
Personally, I don’t get it. I love my body. All of it. Even the fat, folding, wrinkled, lopsided bits. I’m fortunate enough to have people in my life who can look at me and see a beautiful person.
But here’s what drives me crazy: some of the most beautiful people I know, people who are beautiful inside and out, can’t see their own beauty.
This isn’t exclusively a weight problem, nor is it exclusively a female problem. I know lots of people, of all shapes and sizes, who cannot look in the mirror and like what they see. They only see their bodies as too big or too small or the wrong shape, and they wish they could change it. What really needs to change is the emphasis we place on appearance.
This change starts on an individual level. When body image becomes less important for ourselves, it reduces the importance of the body image of others. It is good to look in the mirror and like what you see, but it’s better to like your entire being, not just your physicality.
It is good to appreciate someone’s appearance, but it is better to appreciate who they are. We are so much more than our bodies.
My body is perfect exactly the way it is. Your body is perfect exactly the way it is.
We are beautiful. But we are more than just beautiful.
BY MAGGIE OLSON