I saw a comment from a young girl on a popular post that said: “it’s hard seeing everyone have this shape. Making it feel like if you don’t, you have nothing to offer.” My heart sank when I read it.
It's our uniqueness that makes us beautiful, but the desire to look like this one model of “beauty” (which will change in ten years time, as it always does) is taking diversity of features away. This is nothing new. Across history, bodies have had "trends" (which in itself is weird). But, right now, things have intensified with the widespread availably of irreversible cosmetic procedures that, crucially, people lie about having, plus image manipulation, plus the constant feeding of these images to the youngest and most vulnerable of us in society.
Technology informs our culture, so the problem isn't going away. It is simply important that we teach young people that other people don’t need to have influence over our lives if we don’t want them to.
If it helps, think of it this way. Our culture = media and advertising. Unattainable goals exist so that we just keep buying whatever anyone’s selling. Reality = all around you. So next time you're out, look around. Most people don’t fit the standards peddled by mainstream media.
In my relatively short life span I have been both a victim of the system that makes women feel unworthy, resulting in a severe eating disorder when I was younger, and a sponsored athlete. So I can tell you with absolute certainty that: investing in a healthy body is far more valuable than investing in a body trend, and health doesn't have a particular "look". At the height of my emaciation, I was lauded for looking like a "supermodel". People told me I had an "X factor", and asked me how to achieve the same weight loss I had through unhealthy restriction and obsessive training. Society said I was beautiful and heaped praise at my feet (which still blows my mind), while I withered away and fell sick on the inside. Fertility issues. Hair loss. Organ damage. These are just a few of the things that can await someone suffering severely with an ED.
What do you really love and respect people for, starting with those you've never even met? All the people I admire most throughout history were those who achieved things in their respective fields, be it art, music, science, sports etc. All the people I admire most in my life now haven't achieved anything famously special but are simply kind people who affect my life for the better. Compassion, intelligence (which takes many forms), and a desire to help - these things are more beautiful than what our society calls ‘beauty’.
If you died tomorrow, I guarantee your last thoughts wouldn't be "damn, I wish I'd done all that with a flatter tummy". If you ask someone what they MOST prioritise in life, they usually reference a relationship, i.e. their mum, dad, spouse, child, best friend. Do people really fall in love with other people over their perfectly arched brows? Do good friends truly care about you because you're pretty or cool enough to showcase at a party? Would Mum say your best quality is your ability to squeeze into a sample size?
Perhaps that little girl affected me so much because I saw myself, or my future child, in her. To that girl, whoever you are, I wish you could read this. I assure you that you have value as a person, and it isn't tied to how many likes you get or the size and shape of your waistline. You may feel insecure but the truth is that we all feel insecure, it’s part of the human condition. People might demand that you love your body, but the truth is you might never love it - and that's okay as long as you can simply accept it.
Remember that comparison is natural but generally bad for us as we don’t get the full picture for anyone we don’t live with 24/7. I encourage you to think about the social media around you as a highlight reel, while you are fully aware of every nook and cranny of your own life. It’s not a valid comparison, and personally I've seen loads of previews that looked great for full movies that were disappointing. Take pride in the things that makes you who you are - it's the best way of saying a big old "fuck you" to the many, many systems trying to profit off your shame. Keep doing you. If someone doesn’t like it or doesn’t get it, then what that tells you is they aren’t the person, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend for you - not that you are wrong or misguided. You are deserving of love, happiness, and - as Mark Frost best put it - arriving at the finish line proclaiming "WOW, what a ride!"