“You’d be perfect if you were skinnier…”
Perfection; having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.
There’s no doubt about it; society shapes us in a way that we don’t even realise is happening. It causes us to evaluate our self-worth, our perception of our bodies and ultimately, our value as a human being. We have unknowingly (and to some extent, unwillingly) created an identity based on an illusion.
Because that is exactly what an expectation is; it’s an illusion, a performance and even a trick of the mind. But it’s certainly not reality. It’s a resentment waiting to happen, lying dormant until the road of self-destructive kicks in. Not only does it affect how we feel about ourselves, it determines how we talk to ourselves and how we think others may see us. Society has a huge involvement in how we perceive ourselves – our looks, our achievements and our self-worth. As humans, we are social beings, so this is almost unavoidable. It can cause us to live the life we don’t want to live, becoming the people we don’t want to be.
Our view of ourselves is based around many things – including our personal, internal thoughts as well as external elements, such as society. In fact, our self-esteem is hugely reflective of the society we are surrounded by on a daily basis, whether that’s the endless flawless images that are uploaded to Instagram or the photoshopped photographs that the media constantly churn out. When it’s all you see, it’s easy to become all that you believe.
Expectations are hard to overcome, and everyone is vulnerable to the concept of ‘perfectionism’. In this day and age, how we look has quickly become the biggest factor in defining our perceived self-worth. Those who are thin, muscular and fit flawlessly into the ‘attractive’ category are automatically associated with success, beauty and therefore happiness. On the other hand, the word ‘fat’ has instantly become a representation of one’s character, which is riddled with negative connotations. Who hasn’t fallen into its trap? Whether we want to or not, at some point in our lives each and every one of us has adhered to its expectations, creating a vicious cycle of discontent, doubt and a decline in our self-esteem.
We compare ourselves to society’s perception of perfection – which has quickly also been dubbed ‘normal’.
We’re constantly taught that we should aspire to have flawless skin, bee-stung lips or an invisible waistline – a lot of which is genetically unattainable but still seen as desirable. It’s not just women – shredded abs and gleaming six packs are regularly shoved in men’s faces. As a result, we are dissatisfied with ourselves and feel we are not enough. A negative body image can quickly manifest itself through behaviours such as eating disorders, extreme exercising, steroid usage and plastic surgery abuse.
The thing is, we all know that images portrayed by the media are photo-shopped. We’ve seen countless celebrities called out on social media for photoshopping limbs and reducing their waist size, yet we still fall for it. The media, combined with the attitudes of society, is a powerful tool. Adverts, editorials, imagery – together it has taught us that if we eat less, exercise more and lather ourselves in the latest anti-wrinkle lotions, we’ll be closer to achieving ‘perfection’ – which is seemingly the most desirable trait to have. While we can’t hold it fully responsible, escaping its ideals can feel impossible. More and more people are suffering with body dysmorphia and eating disorders or punishing themselves for not fitting in with the ‘measurements’ of perfection.
But how can we work out what normal is when society has already decided for us?
Society is everything around us; the classroom we grew up in, the friends we surround ourselves with, the colleagues we work with and the environments we put ourselves in. The formula to a positive image is realising that being attractive is feeling healthy. And that comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Physical appearance does not define us, and does in fact, say very a little about our value as a person. Let me remind you, the life we lead every day is reality. There is no ‘one size fits all’. Slim doesn’t necessarily equal healthy. And success isn’t based on someone’s appearance.
It’s time to stop the expectations of society affecting how we feel about ourselves. Let’s enjoy our bodies, appreciate our personalities and spend time with people who make us feel good about ourselves.
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