Let’s Talk About Bodies…

Lifestyle

We’re living in a time where image is everything.

Let me rephrase.

No matter the time in which you lived, image has always been everything. 

The Roaring Twenties saw the ‘finger wave’, the 30s championed pronounced cheekbones; the ‘wasp’s waist’ was all the rage in the 50s; bushy moustaches ruled the 70s; double-denim in the 90s, and the rise of fake tan accompanied the turn of the millennium. Throughout these endless trends, one thing has remained the same: the way in which one looks has always reflected the way in which one is perceived and thus treated. 

(SIDE-NOTE: I speak, mainly, from the perspective of women. In fact, one woman. Just little old me. I wish to avoid making sweeping statements that are universally applicable, that’s not what I am intending to do here. Rather, I hope to drive forward a conversation, based upon my own experiences as a female in her body, whilst potentially resonating with those who can relate). 

I started writing this post as a response to what I shall now and forevermore refer to as, ‘#AdeleGate’. I assume no context is needed but in case you’ve managed to escape the media frenzy, I’ll fill you in. Adele lost weight and the human race lost their shit. I could sit here all day and let my fingers loose on how weight is not a way in which an individual should be defined, described or commemorated, nor is losing weight a demonstration of good health. However, I’ll spare your eyes and my poor keyboard. That wouldn’t be fun for either. Whilst beginning to write, I realised that this speaks to a much larger problem, if you’ll pardon the pun. We, as humans, are so desperate to belong that our desire to conform to society’s standard of beauty is as ingrained in our upbringings as learning to walk or how to ride a bike. 

I recently read an article that questioned where these seemingly ‘innate’ opinions surrounding bodies and appearance come from. It asked you [the reader] to think about where this notion of commenting on someone else’s appearance originated and subsequently where these thoughts have later been reinforced. To me, it simply emphasised the way in which we rely on appearance to form our social structures. My personal memory, albeit a little silly, took me back to first school (‘primary’, for most). More specifically, ‘Kiss-Chase’. A pretty harmless game, one might argue, until you are the person who isn’t being chased by anybody. To this day, I distinctly remember a young boy, running as fast as his little legs could go, only to glance behind him and find no-one attempting to catch and smack a smooch on him. Whilst I agree this may seem a rather frivolous example, it still speaks to the idea that the brains of five, six, seven-year-old children are already peppered with appearance-based inclinations. 

In a world that celebrates conformity, we are expected to champion difference. And therein lies the problem. We’re living in a society that is underpinned by a seemingly inescapable juxtaposition. Women are praised for “embracing their curves” by the same people who cry in the mirror, squashing their rolls together. Women are demonised for being “too thin” by the same people who idolise celebrities whose bodies are a projection of unhealthy eating habits and excessive drug use. There is a falsity in the compliments we give others as they simply reflect our own biases and opinions. I struggle hugely with the idea of ‘self-love’. Self-love is riddled with societal standards. You’re either confident in yourself because you are a conformist, or because you defy said standards. Either way, you’re using this model as the norm to base your opinions off of. What I think would be a better achievement is if we could abolish these measures altogether. How? I haven’t quite worked that part out yet (unhelpful, I know!). 

I am cautious to sit here and write that we should not be commenting on the appearance of others as I believe that is an unrealistic feat. Also, it’s pretty sad. I’m not suggesting that you should never leave a “Gorg!” on your best friend’s latest Insta selfie, nor am I insinuating that society’s issue with appearance will be solved if we simply stop talking about it. Quite the opposite, actually. If we are able to formulate how and why we feel obliged to look a certain way, then perhaps we can start reversing centuries worth of demands and ideals that future generations may not have to endure. 

We can break the cycle. We just have to work together. 

Let’s Talk: Body Confidence

Lifestyle

Body confidence.

Uhhhhiegfiesbdj. Even just writing those two words down and seeing them staring back at me makes my toes begin to curl up, which no doubt will shortly be followed by the rest of my body until I’m balled up like a little kitten. I want to start by saying that I had many reservations about writing this post; though I never know where a post is going to take me when I begin rambling, I know from the outset that a topic such as this is quite a sensitive one, one that is subject to many an opinion. It is also quite personal and will require me to chat openly to whoever is reading about my own experiences. It is only too often these days that when an individual tries to talk about body confidence, they are met with resounding groans and twenty-plus eye-rolls. That in itself is an issue.

Living in an age and society as we do, it is only fair to say that humans are their own downfall. The majority of huge social and political issues stand at the foreground of human ignorance. I think that body confidence is no different. This obsession (that only leads to remind me of that weird Black Mirror episode where every single person was judged on their social media platforms) with our online presence is beyond unhealthy but sadly, I think the effects are irreversible. Pre-conceptions of ‘beauty’ and appearance are damaging the mentality of (particularly) young children and adolescents. I’m fully aware that a post of this nature could come across as “preachy” so, to avoid that as best as I can, I’m going to chat about my own experience with body confidence, or lack thereof.

Honestly, I’d never had any major run-ins with the body police (the ones in my brain lol) until about two years ago. Up until then, I hadn’t really worried TOO much about it. Of course, I’d envied my friend’s long legs over my little stubby ‘I-have-to-take-three-strides-for-every-one-of-your-steps’ legs, or the way another friend could pull off a bandeau mini-dress because they weren’t a card-holder of the itty-bitty-titty-committee like myself, but all in all, I tried not to let it affect me in any way. I’ve always been petite, at 5ft 2, and had never felt out of proportion growing up.

Having had a ponder, I really think that what got me questioning my body confidence was starting university and turning 18. In particular, going out (both at home and at uni). I have never been (and never will be) someone who owns 20 different mini-dresses and matching pairs of heels. I am a jean-loving, trainer-wearing gal who, 9 times out of 10, is always in an oversized sweatshirt or t-shirt. That’s not to say that I’ve never been confident in my body, rather that I tend to favour comfort over anything else (stylish comfort, of course!!). Let me a paint you a nice little picture. An average night-out outfit for me is a pair of black jeans and some form of a crop top with a pair of converse or another variety of trainer. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to make an effort with my makeup and hair (hopefully making me look slightly nicer than I do having just made it in time for my 9am). So, naturally, the words “dressing up” cause alarm bells to start ringing…pretty loudly. Most of my friends absolutely love dressing up and use going out as an excuse to wear their newest dresses/jumpsuits (and so they bloody well SHOULD as they look like angels) when in reality, I can think of nothing worse. I actually get the fear when my friends try to take pictures with me on a night out because I know for a fact, regardless of whether I do look it or not, I will feel sub-standard standing next to them. Even wearing clothes similar to them, I kind of feel like a fraud, as if someone has over-taken my body and made me squeeze into this tiny outfit that in no way makes me feel good and subsequently, doesn’t make me look good. My friends will tell you that I am THE WORST person to take pictures of or with, because I just pick myself apart in every single one. I think being put in a situation where people assume you have “made an effort” to look your best, automatically invites in other peoples’ judgement, if an image is shared on social media, for example. You don’t know what your friend Chloe’s-auntie’s-friend-from-high-school is saying about your hair or your outfit. In reality, Chloe’s-auntie’s-friend-from-high-school probably doesn’t care the slightest bit that your leg’s at a weird angle or one of your eyes looks slightly bigger than the other. Whilst I KNOW this to be the case, it is harder convincing the irrational, negative part of your brain that 24/7.

These pictures show just one example of my struggle with body confidence. Now, I absolutely hate my arms. I know that’s a weird thing to hate but I rarely wear strappy tops that mean the tops of my arms are out. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to purchase a dress with spaghetti straps for my course’s end of year party. You don’t even know how many pictures I had to take before I was finally KIND OF ACCEPTING of one of them. I felt so inadequate compared to how the rest of my friend’s looked and felt heavy and uncomfortable with my body in every photo. Even now, I still look at pictures from that night and pick out the parts about myself that I don’t like, that were only exaggerated by wearing something I didn’t feel like myself in. I also tend to ‘size up’ in a lot of my clothes, though my ‘correct size’ is usually one size down from what I end up buying. This is a habit I’ve let myself fall into as I really don’t tend to like form-fitting clothes as you can see every lil lump and bump. I know if my Mom is reading this she’ll be saying “oh don’t be stupid, you don’t have any lumps or bumps” but  the only way I can describe it is like this: you know when you have a spot on your face and every time you look in the mirror your attention is drawn to it and you feel like it’s ruining the whole vibe your face was going for today? However, when you mention it to your friend they say “oh, I didn’t even notice you had a spot”. I think that’s how it is with your body. I ended up sizing down and getting my ‘correct’ size in this dress, which only made it cling to me more and as a result, made me dislike it that much more. This should have been a fun time, but instead, I couldn’t stop thinking about how uncomfortable and wary of myself I was.

It does make me sad that I can feel this way as I’m such an advocate for seeing the beauty in people. I think all of my friends are honestly the most gorgeous people, inside and out, and I will always be the first person to jump in and tell them they look fab or tell them they’re being stupid for talking negatively about themselves. SO WHY is it so hard to do the same for yourself???? I think the main thing that I do which I definitely should stop doing is comparing myself to others. Now, I know that many people complain about the Instagram explore page promoting unreachable standards of perfection, showcasing the most beautiful girls and best looking guys. However, this is not the type of comparison I’m talking about. I KNOW that if you take a picture in a certain light and from a certain angle that it can make you look a lot thinner than you are, or create a shadowed set of abs. I’m not naive to think that I will ever be a Victoria’s Secret catwalk model or have a figure like Tammy Hembrow’s, rather I end up comparing myself to people I know. I can vividly remember studying one of my friend’s faces and picking out every feature of theirs that I was envious of, or that I felt was better than mine. How utterly awful is that?? The funny thing is that the majority of the time, if you turned around to someone and said “god, I’d kill to have cheekbones like yours” or “I wish my lips were like yours” they will repay the compliment to you and say that they want your cheekbones and your lips. This just goes to show that just because you like the way someone looks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they do. If you think about, you have to see your own face and body every single day. Surely, even if you stared at the nicest face or the most perfect body every day for the rest of your life, you’d get bored of it or start to notice the tiniest of ‘imperfections’.

I do agree that a happy person is a beautiful person and that (no matter how cheesy) true beauty is found in happiness (thank you to Roald Dahl for teaching us all that sacred lesson). I think when you’re happy and secure in yourself, it glows out of you like a beacon of light and people around you just know. Like, yeah, she’s/he’s loving their life. I think there are days when I feel that happiness but there are most definitely still days where I question my body and its worth. I have, however, learnt that most of the pressure that I’ve been putting on my body to look and feel a certain way is pressure that has been generated purely by myself and not by others. My body shouldn’t need to look a certain way for other people, my body should be for me and if anyone ever tries to tell you any different, they are so wrong. Feeling as if you need to look a certain way to fit into the “trend” of what is desirable is something that happens far too often. Health comes first and with it, happiness.

Body confidence is definitely a journey and I’m currently sat on the train (probably eating some form of snack I cannot lie), chugging along at a steady pace.

Let me know how you deal with body confidence issues as I find it super interesting hearing other peoples’ perspectives on topics such as this one. Once again, a little ramble for you all, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.

Love always,

G X

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