No one gets to choose the shape of their body before they are born. Everyone is randomly given their own body and lives with it for a lifetime. Your body will remain with you until the end whether you like it or not, so it’s important to learn how to care for and love it. Let’s start with acknowledging that you do not need to make your body fit the typical body image created by the gimmicks of modern society. Our bodies are different from one another which is normal and the reason they are special.
Finding the Love for Your Body
Recognizing the Problem: What You Have and Don’t Have
Let’s look at the distractions that can prevent us from facing ours bodies as they are.
- 🤷♀️ What You Have: Dissatisfaction
A survey in 2016 by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea indicated that 76.5% of men were satisfied with their appearance whilst this figure was 10% less for women, at 67.1%. In another study, 20% of men responded to having contemplated having plastic surgery due to their insecurities about their appearance whilst for women it was 40%, two times more.
It is not likely that the percentage of men born with a “satisfactory appearance” is 10% higher than women. The 10% difference is an acquired factor and we need to especially keep in mind the significant impact of society’s higher standards for women.
- 🤷♀️ What You Have: Embarrassment
Women are taught to “feel embarrassed” about their bodies from a very young age. Women's bodies should be covered and hidden, and even menstrual products should be kept hidden to not be seen by others. Experts diagnose that girls who grow up in cultures that hide “feminine problems”, such as menstruation, are more likely to experience low self-esteem about their bodies.
- 🙅♀️ What You Don’t Have: A Perfect Body
Four out of ten women of normal weight consider themselves ‘obese’. About 91% of women in the U.S. are unsatisfied with their bodies and go on a diet to achieve the “ideal” size. Unfortunately, only 5% of women have the “ideal” body described by the media. This does not mean that even that 5% is flawlessly perfect. Fashion catalogs that exhibit beautiful bodies edit the bodies of even the best models with photoshop. In the end, the “perfect body” the media encourages people to pursue does not exist.
- 🙅♀ What You Don’t Have: Accurate Information
A survey in the UK indicated that 44% of women cannot identify the vagina within an illustration of women's genitals. The patriarchal culture that prohibits women from looking closely at their bodies separates the owner from their body. Women who do not know about their genitals in this environment are likely to think of their genitals as “not beautiful” from a biased perspective of the media.
Change: Learning to Love
Society must take responsibility for putting the lens of shame on women and solve this issue. However, we cannot wait for the world to change. Make an effort to love your body on your own through your own perspective.
- Encouraging Social Change
Households and schools should not teach about women’s bodies as “objects” to be hidden and protected. Every woman should be supported to self-explore and accept their independent body image. Unsparing criticism should be given to all social agencies that miseducate and pressure us to change.
- Thinking Critically
We need to think critically about our learned ‘body image’. Be suspicious about the appearance you want to have, and think about whether it was implanted by social conventions and media. We need to think about whether the shame taught to us is treating our bodies unfairly. The appearance you desire may not be what you truly want.
- Active Exploration
Focus on the anatomy and function of the body instead of being critical. Practice viewing your body as just that, a human body. Observing and getting intimate with your genitals by regularly conducting a genital self-exam can help. Talk about how long your two strong legs can run instead of how slim your thighs are, and exercise for your health instead of for aesthetic change. Look at yourself as a whole individual, not as a collection of imperfect body parts.
- Consider the Impact
A study by Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts indicated that 70% of university students negatively assessed their appearance after reading a women’s magazine. Women who consume more media tend to place higher value on their appearance. Have you been influenced by someone? It may be necessary to cut off negative influences.
Meanwhile, not only do you need to think about the influences of society, but also your own influence on society. The global singer Adele enjoys makeup and various hairstyles but she went bare-faced on the cover of Rolling Stone. She wanted to send a message to the public that success is not related to whether you “make yourself look pretty”.
Don’t forget that being embarrassed by your bare face, and being ashamed by your appearance affects not only yourself, but also others around you.
- Think positively about your body and practice loving your body.
- Overcoming body insecurities needs individual effort but also social changes.