Mirror, Mirror…

Body image – someone’s perception of their physical self, their thoughts and feelings about it. Everyone’s body is different: some are taller, some are shorter, some are wider, some are thinner. Everyone has an opinion about their body; parts they feel confident or insecure about. We live in a world where beauty standards make us feel insecure, but they shouldn’t define us.

Online surveys show that 91% of women and 20-40% of men feel dissatisfaction towards their bodies. There’s clearly a  gap between how males and females feel about their body but the statistics for both are high. But why do we have a negative body image? One could argue that it’s normal to feel bad about your body, but is it? Is there no external factor forcing us to feel a certain way about ourselves?

When we feel bad about what we look like, it comes from our comparison to others.

The “perfect” body is a social construct deciding what the ideal is. There’s no such thing as perfection, because everyone is unique. From advertisements to today’s social media and TV shows, they’ve all reinforced the idea that there’s only one “perfect” body – whether it be India’s Atlas Cycles advertisement portraying a thin, fair woman wearing a sari and riding a bicycle, or America’s Jockey advertisement with a tall and muscular man posing in his underwear.

When it comes to women, studies show that the following aspects make a perfect body: good skin, small waist, curves, large breasts, round butt, plump lips, and a small nose. Men, on the other hand, should be tall and muscular with wide shoulders. The problem with this is that not only should there be no ideal body type, but half of these traits are purely genetic. The length of our legs, the size of our eyes, our breast size, and our nose size are predetermined by genes and can’t naturally be changed.

Many models, actors, and influencers have this “perfect” body, making both the women and men scrolling through their feed at home think that this is the body they need. There might be a small group of people that naturally have this body, but the truth is, most don’t. Women have surgeries, get botox, and diet, while men hit the gym daily and eat high-protein foods to look this way. Idealizing influencers isn’t the issue, but blindly assuming that everything they post about their bodies is natural and attainable is problematic. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to have a specific physique, but we shouldn’t feel obligated to look a certain way.

The thing is, when we actually work toward this “perfect” body, we realize how hypocritical society can be. For us women, we need to be curvy, and if we go to the gym and work out to grow our legs and butt, that’s fine. If a man goes to the gym to build his biceps, that’s great. But when we develop stretch marks from these changes, that’s considered unattractive. We’ve become curvy or muscular, but need to get laser surgery to get rid of those stretch marks now. We get lip fillers to make our lips look plump, but if it becomes obvious, we look like plastic. No matter what we do, society will find flaws.

This is especially a huge problem for teenagers, because we grow up feeling bad about ourselves, and we never build that confidence. In school, comments were always passed about my glasses, my hair, or the fact that I’m on the heavier side. When I couldn’t fit into a pair of jeans, I’d feel terrible and I would question everything about myself. It used to affect me a lot, and I’m sure there are so many people that have to listen to these sorts of nasty comments. But soon afterward, I realized that sometimes you can’t change people. People can say what they want to because, as long as you’re happy with your body, as long as you feel confident when you walk into a room full of people, and as long as you know that your body doesn’t define who you are – that’s all that matters.

Confidence isn’t easy to build, and it’s okay to have some “off days”. But then all the other days you need to look into the mirror and tell yourself that you’re beautiful and that there is more to you than just your reflection. By constantly judging our bodies; we devalue ourselves. At the end of the day it can negatively affect our mental health.

I can’t tell you to feel positive about your body, because it doesn’t just happen like that. But I can tell you that how others perceive you shouldn’t have an impact on how you feel about yourself. You’re the one looking at the mirror, and if you’re happy with what you see, that’s all that really matters. In that moment you’ll realize that all the love you gave yourself was worth it, and you’re worth so much more than the labels that anyone puts on your body.