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“How to get the Perfect Butt!”
“Lose your belly: Melt 4 lbs in 7 days!”
“47 BEST & WORST BEACH BODIES!”
It’s hardly unusual to see statements like these decorate the covers of some of the most popular magazines, accompanied by severely photoshopped pictures. The females who grace these magazine covers are retouched to have a flawless everything from their poreless skin to their thin frames and elegant figures. Lauded by these magazines as the definition of “perfection,” these women often become role models for girls to look up to.
Given the extreme emphasis placed on outward appearance, it’s no wonder that most girls struggle with their inner body-image demons. In fact, statistics show, that due to external influences, the majority of females are unhappy with their physical appearance, both in terms of body and beauty.
Compared to the typical 5’11” and 117-pound model, the average American woman is 5’4” and 140 pounds. Purposefully and deceptively portraying women in media as curvier or thinner than they truly are only harms females’ perceptions of themselves. By putting only the skinniest women (our supermodels and Victoria’s Secret Angels) on a pedestal for all to see, we are incorrectly teaching our youth that these are the standards to which we should hold ourselves.
This emphasis on physique and outer beauty not only is extremely shallow, but creates an unhealthy mindset in females that they should actively work towards achieving desirable looks.
So this summer, when Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” topped the charts, it was hailed as the ‘new body image anthem.’ Critics sung the praises of the female artist for preaching a positive body image—a refreshing change from being told to “perfect” ourselves, to make our stomachs flatter, abs tighter, butt firmer.
In actuality, this song is only one part of a larger social revolution in popular culture. In recent months, celebrities have been speaking out about their frustration regarding these unrealistic, unattainable beauty standards– quite a few have taken a stand against having their photos doctored by doing exclusive photoshoots with only one requirement: that their bodies be kept as they are, without any enlargements or reductions of any body parts.
In theory, the concept of self-love is meant to encourage females to stop hating their bodies, despite the constant backlash from the media. It is meant to inspire a movement that teaches young girls to block out society’s hateful and narrow-minded ideas, whilst reminding the rest of the female population that contrary to what has been ingrained in our minds, there is no one “perfect” body type.
Yet, the motivational teachings of some ‘body-embracing’ enthusiasts seem to go against the very concept of the body image movement. There are people who do not encourage the idea that all body types are beautiful, but rather that ‘Curvy is the New Thin,’ that ‘chicken legs’ are unattractive, and that skinny girls look unhealthily anorexic. They merely boost the morales of bigger-bodied ladies by demeaning those with smaller or thinner body shapes, especially skinny-shaming to feel better about themselves. This intolerant mindset is no better than the narrow-minded beliefs that elicited the thin ideals of popular culture.
Similarly, Trainor’s supposed “body anthem” contradicts its very preaching of self-love, The song’s message of loving your body and all of its curves is built entirely on pleasing men– Trainor communicates a dangerous notion when she sings: “Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase” and “Yeah my mama she told me don’t worry about your size. She says, “Boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Of course you have to bring others pleasure in order to feel good about yourself, right?
Wrong. Loving yourself and your physical appearance should never have to do with other people. No one should ever gain better self-esteem from holding themselves superior to people with “less desirable” bodies, and no one should secure their own positive self-image from sources other than oneself. Self-love doesn’t require you to please anyone but yourself.
Instead of focusing on the size of our waistband, comparing ourselves to others to gain a higher self-esteem, or finding confidence in how others view us, we must pursue true self-confidence by focusing on what matters: our selves. We should consciously pursue and work towards bettering ourselves, but let us disregard physical looks and focus on physical health instead, whether that entails eating a healthier diet or taking on a more physically active lifestyle. After all, feeling good is just as important as, if not more important than, looking good.