As the summer temperatures are rising, my self-confidence is sinking. Pictures of perfect summer bodies are all over the internet, making me doubt my own body, and whether the world is ready to see it clad in a bikini. Having body image issues means wearing long pants in the middle of summer. Of course, I’m not the only one who has these feelings and thoughts. In fact, I’m sure most people have been struggling with the high standards they have for their body their whole life. High standards like not being too fat or too skinny, having the perfect skin, having no stretch marks, etcetera etcetera. We can all probably name one body part that we’ve been insecure about at least once in our life. Although it’s getting easier for me to overcome those negative thoughts, I know a lot of people still struggle with them.
A few months ago, I came across a brilliant Instagram account that has helped me maintain positive thoughts, and I’ve been dying to write about it and its theme ever since: body positivity. The Instagram account @i_weigh is founded by actress and body positivity activist Jameela Jamil. Now I can sit here and cite her whole Wikipedia page, write about the things she’s gone through or has accomplished, but just need the one word to describe this tall gorgeous goddess: badass.
One of the terms I learned from her is dysmorphia, or body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) BDD affects about 1 in 50 people. People who have body dysmorphia experience distress about their appearance on a daily basis, to the point that it can interfere with their everyday lives. They often rely on other people to tell them about their size because they’re not aware of it themselves.
That’s where social media and corporate beauty companies come swooping in. A lot of people nowadays rely on social media to tell them how they should look, which is really damaging. Living up to the mainstream idea of “the perfect body” is hard, even for people who don’t have BDD. It’s hard to keep up with what’s desired of people in this patriarchal society. A society in which female body standards and self-image are often determined by multibillion-dollar beauty corporations, which are mostly run by men. The male gaze has been the dominant voice on how women should look and behave; it’s been the running theme for centuries. The definition of the perfect body has changed throughout the years, often determined by the male gaze. Around 23000 BCE, the perfect body type was big and chubby, because it was perfect for childbearing. Up until the nineteenth century soft and round looks were the trend. Being “curvy” was desired; curvy meaning being slightly bigger than the average Victoria’s secret model.
Now that bearing children is less of a priority, all the attention has become focused on maintaining a perfect toned and blemish-free body. This is not only unhealthy for the average human, but extremely toxic for people with mental disorders. We live in a capitalist world where corporations feed off of our desire to be like the campaign ads they shove in our face. It’s not like they’ll make money by saying, “Honey, you’re perfect the way you are, don’t change!” A consequence of this is that people now feel entitled to call others out on their body shape, with health being the main excuse. In reality, health often has little to do with body types. There’s no excuse for fat shaming. I don’t know what other people go through, so I don’t have the right to judge someone else for the things that are only visible on the surface. Sadly, I’ve even been fat shamed by people close to me, people who are supposed to see beneath the surface. It hurts, but I’ve learned that I’m strong enough to carry this pain with me. I’ve learned to not let it weigh me down and push through, because only what I think of myself matters. For a lot of people it creates a vicious cycle: a distorted self-view causes anxiety and/or depression, and this causes self-doubt, which causes more anxiety.
Apart from how the outside world views our bodies, we also have to cope with the image we have of ourselves. Stopping the train of negative thoughts brings us closer to self-love. This does not, however, mean that there is no self-love without negative thoughts. Even now, after I’ve learned to love and accept myself, I still struggle with negative thinking. Self-love is a process. It’s not done in one day; it will take your whole life to wake up every day and say, “Hey, I love myself and there’s no one who can tell me otherwise.” If some days are too hard, that’s also okay. It takes training to choose and see the good in yourself. Our mind is full of activity and it’s up to ourselves to battle the psychological warfare every day. Focus on the positive things about yourself and don’t let the negative slip through. Don’t be the victim of your flaws, be the conqueror of your flaws. Because in the end, I’d rather be judged by the things I have accomplished, because they define who I am.
Caroline Caldwell said: “In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.” It is also a rebellious act to love and accept yourself. Since we cannot simply get rid of society’s set standards, it’s good to surround ourselves with pages like @i_weigh and people like Jameela Jamil who fight against toxic body images and advocate self-love. I mentioned earlier that @i_weigh is a brilliant page. The reason for this is because I love the name. I don’t weigh myself in kilograms, but I weigh myself in who I am and what I do. I weigh a loving sister, daughter and friend; I weigh an article writer; I weigh a hard-working student; I weigh so much more than what society dictates. Our body does so much for us, it’s time to love it back.
Seriously, for more amazingness check out the page @i_weigh and follow @jameelajamilofficial on Instagram and twitter. For more talk on dysmorphia you can check out her youtube page.