Last updated on March 30th, 2023 at 08:46 pm
My dream and mission is to help improve body image worldwide. We can learn to see ourselves as being beautiful rather than anything less.
To help me accomplish this, I asked friends their thoughts on the subject of body image. One of my friends, journalist Rayne Wolfe, said:
“I’ve spent many years beating myself up over my weight. The funny thing is when I look back at photos of 20, 10, or even 5 years back; I think I look cute. I look fine. I look like me regardless of what the scale says.
I know this, yet when the camera comes out, I’m beating myself up in my head behind my smile. WHY? Why this constant haranguing of myself? Good luck writing a column on that.”
Before I went too far in my body image whodunit thoughts, I wanted to check in with her to ensure I was on the right track.
Here is my response back:
“Do you often compare yourself to others? To your friends… To celebrities? I think it’s something in our society that pushes us to seek to be younger than we are. So we are never happy with now. It’s only in retrospect that we can see we squandered the blessing of living in the moment.”
She confirmed I was on track:
“You’re on base. It’s why I stopped subscribing to Vogue Magazine, and now I get More Magazine, which is more empowering. I totally get it logically, but I struggle with it every day. Sometimes when I’m super hard on myself, I pretend that I’m a famous actress (Charlize Theron!) and that all the extra weight is for a role.
I think: this can come back off in 3 months, so why beat myself up? The truth is if I ate better and used my gym membership, it would come off quickly. It’s so bad and tricky and diminishes my daily quality of life.”
What Rayne is saying is very common. Many people struggle with it, so the body image problem I am addressing is quite complicated. I’m about to say some unpopular things. Comparing ourselves to stories about celebrities is comparing ourselves to a fantasy.
- Celebrities live larger than life, but we constantly try to emulate their lifestyles. We rarely hear about a celebrity’s bad or mundane day.
At one point, celebrities were average people. And I’m sure at times they want to feel average again. But they have an army of people helping them be celebrities. Some personal trainers push for the perfect body, chefs prepare healthy and delicious meals, nannies watch their children, and housekeepers clean their homes.
For magazine cover shoots, high-end clothing is tailored to the star’s body, hair, and makeup artists to enhance each feature, and stylists make sure every last thing in the photo is perfect. Professional photographers know how to pose and light the person to the most flattering advantage. After the shoot and before you see the images, they are edited, retouched, and oftentimes changed dramatically.
So we’re comparing ourselves to an ideal that is not a realistic possibility for you unless you’re an actor and part of the less than 1% who become famous.
- Advertisers want you to feel bad enough about your body image that you’ll hope their product will fix you
If it makes you feel bad, it’s working.
The other monster feeding this insatiable body image beast is the advertising industry. Their sole purpose is to sell things.
They hope to make you want to buy something from a place of inadequacy. Turn on the television, and within moments you’ll see an ad telling you if only you buy this product, you’ll be thinner, more beautiful, your dreams will come true, and you’ll be happier!
- We see more ads a day than we see news stories or are exposed to education
We live in an age where advertising carries information in a way that dwarfs education and news. Interact with any child that watches television, and you’ll see that products and shows are interchangeable. Walk a toddler through a store, and they’ll happily recognize characters they’ve seen on TV.
Considering we will be bombarded by more than 10,000 ads per day, we must realize that we’re exposed to someone selling us something far more often than we’re exposed to someone trying to teach us something.
- It comes down to YOU making the personal decision to be in charge of your body image
Until the balance between education and advertising tips towards education, the key to body image happiness is in your hands. At first, every one of the 5,000 ads will be an exercise to stay in control of your feelings.
You face a spiritual journey that requires expending effort to stay in the moment. Some people find this with meditation, and some find it with being their loved ones.
Others find it in nature.
Learn what activities (or restful practices) help bring inner calm and peace to you. No matter how short it lasts, you can fan a flicker of a flame into a roaring fire with time and effort.
You will never be younger than you are at this very moment.
There is no magic fix for learning to love your body. At this moment, no matter your age or size, you should love yourself. Like diet and exercise, you will continually be tested to maintain your resolve to appreciate what you’ve been blessed with. It’s not about what you don’t have or had in the past. It’s about living in the moment and being grateful.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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