Why is “who I am” so often based on “how I look”?
The media is flooded with messages of what constitutes ideal beauty. We just have to turn on the television, open a fashion or beauty magazine, log into Facebook, and we see multiple images of women and men who are supposed to represent some sort of ‘ideal’.
Each decade we encounter a different version of ‘ideal’. With these ‘ideals’ changing, how can anyone keep up? And to be frank, why should they? We are encouraged through these messages to base a large part of our self-esteem, self-worth, and success upon matching up to these ‘ideals’ of body image. If we do not match up, there are many ways these days to change our physical self, almost as if we are a piece of clay that can be molded into the current ‘ideal’.
Breasts too small for the current trend? We can have an enlargement. Too big the trend of the next decade? Have them reduced. If people cannot afford to do this, then they may feel the need to hide their natural shape. Or they may starve themselves to reduce their body size resulting in an eating disorder. There are various ways to change your face too. Have a nose job. Have a facelift. Do Botox. Deny any ageing through cosmetic surgery, rather than a healthy lifestyle or creams (if the creams actually work!).
For those who struggle in these areas, a little or a lot, I propose contemplating the following questions:
What if you dared to accept your features and body type are as they are meant to be?
What if part of self-actualization is actually actualizing who you naturally and truly are physically?
Of course, I am saying this within the realm of leading a healthy lifestyle, not eating fast food every mealtime and refusing to exercise if you are physically able.
What is you could see that your face and your body are uniquely designed, regardless of current ‘trends’?
How might that affect not only the health of your physical self, but your sense of yourself?
What if you stopped the comparisons with whatever images show up on your Facebook, the TV, in magazines? I ask myself these questions too.
I have compassion and concern for the younger generation, and the standards of ‘beauty’ that are in front of them more frequently and through more mediums than ever before in history.
Once there was print, then film, then television, and now there are endless social media channels. I have compassion and concern for the younger generation, and the standards of ‘beauty’ that are in front of them more frequently and through more mediums than ever before in history.
For so many ‘who I am’ is so often based on ‘how I look’. I was impacted by Meaghan Ramsey’s TED talk “Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you” that shows us the power of these messages to young people today, and how we can all be affected by these things. I wonder how we can use media to give a counter-message, one that will allow for a healthier sense of self in relation to body image, to encourage the actualization of who one is and not actualization of a substitute sense of self based on media images or current physical ‘ideals’.
I have been facing my own issues regarding my physical self; even in the writing of this blog entry. I recognized that I have issues regarding my face even more strongly than I previously recognized. I knew I had some features of my face that I didn’t appreciate so much, and I knew I wished I was more ‘attractive’ in some ways, despite not wanting to change who I truly am.
I have noticed that these issues seem currently stronger than a decade ago. I hypothesized this could have something to do with reaching mid-life; and I have begun reflecting on this. In preparing this blog post, I became quite emotional about the whole issue of how I look, about media images, and even began to wonder if I am actually ‘ugly’ (as in the TED talk). I began picking out the different features of my face that I didn’t appreciate. I realized this was not good for me, but also how easy it can be to go down that path.
No amount of people in the past or the present telling me I was attractive seemed to change this self-critique process. I needed to allow it and also to re-affirm to myself that who I am physically and the ‘me’ I can actualize to my full potential physically is good enough, is beautiful in its own right, and that comparing myself to someone else or some image I have seen or cooked up in my mind, is not helpful.
Being my best self, with the face I have been given, will surely bring me more contentment and freedom than wishing I looked different or more like some other image. I have set myself the task in these coming weeks to stop myself each time I make a comparison, and to tell myself daily as I look in the mirror that I am designed as a beautiful work of unique art.
And, if people do not appreciate it, they can simply go to another gallery!