I recently saw a post on Instagram that I’ve been unable to erase from my mind.
A girl around my age posted a before-and-after comparison of her body. She appeared more toned and tight in the “after” photo – but otherwise, I saw two similar photos of the same beautiful girl. Her caption is what disturbed me, and I can’t seem to forget the way it made me feel.
“I’m never taking another week off from clean eating and exercise,” she began. “I let myself go over the holidays, and cannot believe how much my body changed in such a short period of time. You should never get so comfortable with your body that you settle for less than your best. Feeling that level of comfort in your own skin is a detriment to forward-progress.”
Did she really just tell people not to feel comfortable in their own skin? The more I mulled this over, the less surprised I became. Should it really come as a shock that girls and women feel this way?
There has been a lot [not nearly enough] written about how pervasive negative body image is in our media and culture, especially for girls and women. We are constantly being told that our best is not good enough. To make matters worse, celebrities like the Kardashians will pay for millions of dollars’ worth of surgery to construct society’s ideal body, then tell you it’s naturally theirs, that you can do it too with some squats and a little help from Khloe’s waist trainer and Kylie’s contour kit.
This is not going to be an easy problem to solve. Our entire culture was built on the foundation of oppressing bodies, and it’s going to take a lot more than one blog post to impact that. American consumerism is literally driven by people’s dissatisfaction with their bodies. Think about it. We spend thousands of dollars annually trying to keep up with appearances. Consumer culture does not want you to feel comfortable with your own body. If women started feeling confident as-is, thousands of companies that capitalize on our dissatisfaction would go belly-up.
It is impossible for ordinary Americans to control the message being plugged by people and companies in power. Shit, even our top elected official is perpetuating the message that women must look a certain way, on a daily basis. My point is, if we are perpetuating this message on an individual level too, we are failing.
There is nothing wrong with posting a progress photo, eating clean or wanting a more fit body. The problem is that we are telling people that healthy = a specific body type. We should be encouraging girls to be healthier, not to change their bodies into something they are not. Any person who has struggled with an eating disorder will be the first to tell you that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy.
I think most of us can agree that we could do a better job of taking care of our bodies: we should all drink more water, exercise more frequently and eat healthier foods – but we need to stop telling women above a size two that they are not allowed to feel comfortable and confident with their body as-is. Side note: you can still work towards a better, stronger body without condemning the skin you’re in now.
The message in this Instagram post was very clear: “You should not feel comfortable with your body unless it looks a certain way.”
You do not need to be society’s ideal body type to be worthy of love and confidence.
We need to, on an individual level, start spreading the message that any woman can and should feel comfortable in their own skin. You are no less worthy of love or happiness because you gained a few pounds over the holidays.
Unfortunately we cannot flip a switch and suddenly start loving our bodies. I still struggle with insecurities, and I probably always will. The objective is to love yourself despite these self-perceived flaws. Next time you think something negative about your physical appearance, ask yourself how you would feel saying the same thing to your daughter, sister or best friend.
My point is: our lives are already a constant barrage of people trying to tell us that we are not good enough, or what we need more or less of to be happy. The very least we can do is practice being kinder to one another on an individual level.
Ladies, we’re not going to win this battle if we’re not united in the fight. Being more accepting of others begins with being more accepting of yourself. Be kinder to yourself, and the world with follow suit.