Are you a slave to your body image?

“Gosh! Just look at her. She is so skinny and she looks so good!”

“Shit,this top is too tight for me.”

There are days when I avoid most reflective surfaces because I can’t stand to see my reflection. I look at the girls around me and I look back at myself and I am disappointed with how I look.

And I am not the only one.

body-image-statistics-infographic

These statistics are staggering! Close to 50% of women are not happy about the way that they look and this affects how they feel about themselves.

Society’s obsession with sexualising women and trying to make us conform to one perception of beauty is affecting the way girls and women live our lives. We are constantly bombarded with images of what is expected of us; big boobs, small waist, long legs, flawless skin and hair that somehow manages to capture the right amount of bounce when we walk.

These angels have it. But how many of us mere mortals can afford to look like this without a makeup team?

This is beginning to affect girls as young as 8. They are so worried that they will become fat when they grow up that some are known to starve themselves and some girls who have been made fun of for being ‘chubby’ have even committed suicide.For instance, women have dresses that comes in size 0! What does it mean to be a size 0? Nothingness or perfection?

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Victoria is who famous for being a size 0 besides her sexy husband 

Last week, I saw a video of two sisters in Korea who went under the knife and came out of it completely transformed that they looked nothing like their former selves.

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The video narrates how ‘lucky’ these sisters were to have received ‘magic’ that enabled them to be transformed into beautiful swans. They can proudly show their faces in public, whereas once they would have been shunned by the very same people who now showered them with admiration. Most of the reactions surrounding this video was one of admiration and even a tinge of jealousy at how beautiful they look now. If we go on facebook and simply search for ‘Korea plastic surgery’ dozens of pages dedicated to glorifying the ‘before & after’ pictures of girls who underwent surgery opens up.

The problem with our society today is that we value a woman based on her looks first and her accomplishments are only secondary to that. For instance, when I go back to visit my relatives in India, their first comments invariably oscillates between “Why Shilpa, you have gained weight! Tsk tsk! Who will want to marry you now?” or “Oh! Good you have lost weight! Keep it up!” They hardly ever bother about my career plans. As long as I am skinny, they feel that I have enough value as a woman who can be married off to the highest bidder in the game of arranged marriage.

The access to Social media is also not helping with this problem that girls have with their own body images. There are blogs on Tumblr that encourages girls to lose unhealthy amounts of weight, because to them that is the standard of beauty.They search for tags such as ‘thinspo’ (thin + inspiration) or ‘proana/promia’ (pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia) and they are faced with images of skinny models and girls who maintain blogs in diary format with their fasting and purging updates. In an interview done by Huffington Post one of the followers of the blog commented, “They look so confident and we can see their bones through their skin. It’s the most beautiful thing ever. I also like tips about food or how to ignore hunger.”

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One of the current fads on tumblr & Instagram: Girls striving for ‘Thigh gaps.’ The only way to achieve this is malnourishment. 

Facebook is another source where girls are constantly seeing messages that tell them being skinny is the way to go. What is worse is that, these are people that they know and hang out with saying “omg! you look amazing now. How did you lose so much weight? Tell me?!” In a way, this approval is something that we all seek, this need to be accepted by our peers. Without even realising it, we end up comparing ourselves with our friends and this fosters a slight competitive spirit among people. (Who will lose the most amount of weight?) How many times have we stalked pictures of our friends or gossiped among our friends about the successful weight loss of some distant friends of ours? I am guilty of this. Its a case of “Omg! If she can do it, then maybe I can too!”

Social media alone isn’t guilty for perpetuating this issue; take a look at the magazines that are sold everywhere. Most carry the same message, “if you want to feel sexy and wanted, then you need to be skinny.”

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Such standards of beauty are almost never attainable for most women. In fact, the actresses or models themselves have been airbrushed before they are put on the front page. Remember the controversy when Beyoncè was airbrushed to appear fairer or when Kelly Clarkson was photoshopped thinner? Mass media’s standards are set based on unrealistic expectations of what a woman must look like to be beautiful and achieving this standard can even be unhealthy.

 This is what happens! 

A typical shopping trip can end up getting frustrating real fast. Imagine going into shops and seeing the shop assistants snigger as you look around and when you need help looking for a bigger size, they gleefully tell you “sorry we don’t stock a bigger size.” Its like a scene from Mean girls! I can’t help it if the clothes here are cut smaller to accommodate the majority of women who have smaller breasts and hips than me. Finding an outfit that flatters me gives me more joy than eating chocolates.

As a brown skinned woman, I have the added pressure of being told that I need to be more fair to fit the standard of beauty better. Fairness creams are one of the highest selling products in India! Its a constant inner battle with myself; I am trying to be confident and accepting of who I am but everything around me is constantly pointing out the flaws that I otherwise wouldn’t even be aware of. I mean, we have armpit whiteners and even anal bleaching and all in the name of beauty!

Thankfully the fashion industry and the media are waking up to the fact that people are killing themselves to achieve this level of perfection which they think comes naturally. No one wakes up looking like a million bucks, not even Jennifer Lawrence.

dove_wideweb__430x327Dove models with curves. An uncommon sight in the modeling world.

The fashion industry is beginning to enforce policies that ensures that unless models meet certain health criterias, they will not be able to walk the ramp (some models have fainted due to exhaustion in the past). Major corporations like Dove have launched the “Real beauty” campaign which gets women to love themselves and magazines such as Seventeen is beginning to reduce the amount of airbrushing they do to their models.

There is hope for the future generations of girls who can grow up loving themselves. Until then, anytime I look at my reflection and I start seeing my flaws, I am just going to remove my spectacles and I look better instantly.

Originally posted at Vulcanpost.com

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