In a society that constantly tells us what we should look like by setting unrealistic body standards, it is easier to struggle to love one’s self. The media can have a powerful influence on how we view our bodies. We are bombarded with images of the ‘ideal’ body type and advertisements sell the idea that everyone can achieve this ideal body type if we simply just put in the effort. We are conditioned to view our bodies as a project that must continuously be prodded and modified. These messages are detrimental because standards of beauty portrayed by the media are almost always unrealistic and unattainable by everyday people i.e. Instagram models and celebrities who get plastic surgery but attribute their body type to gym and cleansing teas. As expected, the pressure to look a certain way to be deemed desirable can lead to low self-esteem issues especially if the parts of you that are “undesirable” can’t be altered by a gym membership.
Many individuals, consciously or subconsciously, jump all kinds of hurdles to attain a body shape that they will never be able to get because it simply isn’t in their genetic makeup and this can lead to dissatisfaction. In some cases, a person may become so fixated on attaining the “perfect body” that they begin engaging in extreme behaviours such as excessive dieting and going to the gym twice a day, seven times a week in order to achieve this ideal body.
What is important to remember is that, while there is an ‘ideal body type’ portrayed in the media, this standard is unrealistic for most. We all come in different shapes and sizes, one size does not fit all. I had and still have body image issues. My issues are with my weight. For as long as I remember, I have been a really small girl and it’s something I am not allowed to forget. At family functions, I am always reminded that I need to be fattened before I can find a husband or that my skinniness is funny because the smallest of winds can knock me off my feet. At age 16, I struggled to even look in the mirror because my reflection disturbed me. However, I had to actively condition myself to see the beauty that lies within and bring it to the surface. It’s not an easy process and it’s more of a journey than it is a destination. Every day, I actively choose to be comfortable in my own body. Some days are better than others but I still try. So here is a list of things that I’ve found helpful on my journey.
Enjoy your nudity: after a shower, before you clothe yourself, spend some time in front of a mirror and pay yourself a compliment. Don’t focus on the things you dislike but exalt the features that you do like.
Stretches: Find time in your day for a full body stretch. If you can, try to wake up about 20 minutes earlier than you usually would to stretch. Waking up earlier than you have to sounds like a nightmare but a full body stretch before you begin your day does wonders for your mental health. You will feel more awake, refreshed and rejuvenated. It also works at any time of the day, fit it into your schedule.
Exercise: your body is made up of muscles and if you don’t use them regularly, they will become tired and wear out sooner than they should. Exercising is a way of keeping your body active which is beneficial for your mind, body and soul. You don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to join a gym, a lot of parks have exercise equipment that can be utilised free of charge. You can also choose to go for a walk or a run. Get creative with it.
Retail therapy: going shopping can do wonders. There are different clothing for different body types and while shopping can be a tedious activity, it can be fun to go into stores, try on new clothes and discover what actually accentuates your own body.
My message is that we all come in different shapes and sizes so why do we continue to push this notion of an ‘ideal body’. If you do wish to change something about yourself, do it because you genuinely want to not because you don’t like something about yourself. There’s nothing wrong with exercising to tighten your thighs but going to extreme measures to change yourself is unhealthy. It’s not always easy but actively choose to be comfortable in your own skin. After all, your body is yours and yours alone, so cherish it.