Why We Need to Move Away From an 'Ideal' Body Image

Every day of our lives we're bombarded with images of stick thin models, their skin glowing and legs seemingly unnaturally long. From magazines and newspapers to Instagram and adverts, the image of the 'perfect girl' is persistent and relentless. This ideal is so deeply engrained in our society that it appears almost to be the norm. This is how every woman wants to look, isn't it?

Well, no. Not everyone wants to look like this Photoshopped ‘ideal’ woman. Not everyone wants to have long blonde locks and glistening white teeth. Not everyone wants to be a size 6 or have perfectly formed eyebrows. And nor should they. This image of an idealised woman is little more than a myth. Yes, blue-eyed, cheekbone-chiseled women exist - and they are beautiful - but they are not the epitome of beauty, and whoever decided that this was the norm was disastrously wrong. ‘Beauty’ has become synonymous with the models you see on the runway at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, with flat stomachs and curved waists, and presented as something only a select few hold.

That said, we are slowly moving away from a culture that puts the skinny woman on a pedestal and instead favours the ‘curvy’, that is, the large-breasted, thick-thighed - but also narrow-waisted - woman. This movement is seen by some as a forward step, however, it is just as harmful for those who don’t fit this alternative ‘ideal’ body shape. Being ‘curvy’ is the new ‘skinny’, a similarly unobtainable, harmful image that encourages eating disorders and self-hatred. Of course, these women are beautiful, but they are not the only ones. So are the small-breasted, the tall, the short, those with lower belly fat, big hands and small feet. ‘Curvy’ does not mean ‘everyone that isn’t skinny’ and is not a helpful alternative body image.

Walk down the street and you will see women of all sizes, heights, colours and backgrounds. Who is to say that all these women aren’t beautiful, and should be constantly aiming to reach an unattainable ‘perfection’? The media, namely magazines and television shows, as well as social media, have propagated the notion of a ‘perfect beauty’ and it must be proven to them that this is little more than a myth. How? By feeling comfortable in our own bodies.

We need to move away from a perception held in society that effectively makes women feel less worthy than they are. The issue is that women are taught that their bodies are their only source of value. Whilst men can be intelligent and useful, women are to be looked at - why else would page 3 have existed until 2015 and toned bikini-clad females have millions of followers on Instagram? Feeling as though your body is unworthy is not only clearly damaging to one's mental health, but it can also effect daily life in subtler ways. A report by the Advertising Standards Agency states that 'gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children' and that 'such portrayls can limit how people see themselves, how others see them and limit the life decisions they take'. If a lack of self confidence arising out of a the idea that one's body doesn't correspond with how it is meant to look could prevent you making desired steps in life then there is clearly something wrong. 

Loving your body can be easier said than done, particularly when surrounded by images of how we ‘should look’, but it shouldn’t be. What is needed to rise above this perception is self love. Learning to love your quirks and seeming abnormalities is the only way to be comfortable in your own skin, and ultimately your own skin is the only one you will ever have. Embrace your difference and love those aspects others might feel the need to comment on - it's your own body and no one else’s business.