Why Body Image?

In an “awareness” society, why should we focus on this?

We’re well aware of the fact that we live in a society where looks matter. Despite how much you try to change the perceptions of others, and even your own, you’ll still find that you (and the rest of the world) judge others based on the way they look.

But it really is no wonder that we do this, we’re bombarded with this idea all the time! You know, the one where someone is ALWAYS supposed to look like this or else they aren’t even worth noting. We see it (most obviously) in advertising where the idealized member of a target group can be found promoting a product, and so the end result is that any insecurity that’s festered up inside makes you buy it (or at least feel enticed to do so). It’s found online, not only for the ads that screw up our visual stimulation but also for the fact that the “trends” we find are often related to how people look. (#selfies anyone?) Finally, take a look at your friends’ faces. The people you interact with are most likely those who you feel comfortable with, one factor determining this probably being the way they look. Unless you share EVERY single interest with another person, chances are that if they look “better” than you do (of determination by society) or the other way around, because of various expectations/stereotypes, a relationship will probably not be formed unless you see each other way too often that it’s impossible not to. You might think that’s a high school thought, but really, ask yourself this — and be glad that you have friends despite how they look!

But really, some of us don’t exactly have friends, don’t share selfies, and will never be on advertisements since unless society stops idealizing its own members (never gonna happen), we won’t fit the mold to even be considered average. Body image matters people and it needs to be positive! That’s not just a theme for a song by Lady GaGa or something that you should only read about on Twitter with some random person trying to gain sympathy from the anonymous masses, it’s something that’s actually important, here’s why:

  1. We can’t all agree on who or what made us or specifically, who or what makes us human. But we can all say that we are human, so why do polytypic differences and traits matter? You won’t like everyone, but at least give them the decency to see them for more than their appearance.
  2. Life sucks. Why make it suck more? When you criticize someone like me for looking like they’re aliens, well, you alienate them and dehumanize them. As tempting as it is to tell someone how surprisingly __________ they look, ask yourself, does it really matter that they look this way? How are they as individuals, and why are they like that?
  3. That leads me to this next one: If you’re asking why a socially “ugly” individual has a bad attitude, let me tell you why. They've become misanthropes. Know how I know? Because to some degree, I've become one myself. Despite my humanitarian tendencies and visions, I can’t help but scream sometimes when a**holes stare at me like I’m some kind of monster. I've even heard a little girl point at me one time and calling me a monster just for the way I look! (By the way, it’s against everything about me to call a little girl an a**hole — but you get the point) No further elaboration needed right? It doesn't get simpler than I’m an a**hole because you were!
  4. Related to the last two points is this: the fact that life already sucks and yet you’re willing to criticize someone for the way they look and still wonder why they have such a bad attitude about it really begs the question of why we accept these standards anyway. Why do we? What social good is it that we make “better looking” babies or that we “weed” the population of people who are unwanted just because they look different from your ideals?
  5. Finally, after you ask yourself those questions, do the same with this last one: Why can’t we just accept others for their unique qualities, physical, psychological, mental, emotional, or whatever?

But then again, maybe the reason we can’t is because as a society, we’re all too insecure. Why else would we feel the need to fit in or be like everyone else? According to anthropology, the reason why humans tend to group is because there’s safety in numbers. And when someone is different from the general group think, we tend to exclude them. It’s a vicious cycle really, someone is booted from one group, meets others like themselves who were booted, then boots someone else who seems different, et cetera, et cetera…. but it is what it is: reality.

Still, maybe it’s time to make groups more inclusive? As great as it seems to be elitist by labeling someone different as not being good enough, we really just waste potentially great friends, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, and so on, and so forth…. all because we didn't like them for the way they look? I mean, really, you can apply this for other things people are judged upon like sexual orientation or even the way they think, and still you will find that it’s all so ridiculous how petty differences influence how perceptions on who may be “good” and who may be “bad”. It’s something that even I’m guilty of, but at least I acknowledge it and do my best to hinder such leanings.

If you've read this far, you probably have noticed that I've gone with a lot of social commentary on this piece. But if you really need to ask “why body image?”, you are right to do so, since we have human rights, war, famine, political corruption, public health, and so many other very much pressing issues to talk about. But on behalf of myself, this is the last reason: it’s just that important to me. I know, it might be extremely biased, but in a cruel world of misunderstanding and uncertainty, I just want to help shed a little bit of light on one of the issues I personally face, which does happen to be a low amount of self-esteem due in part to a negative body image. And really, when you’re positive about the way you look and accept that you’re flawed, you feel positive, take care of yourself both emotionally and physically (also mentally), and become the bright shining star you were meant to be! We need more light in the world right?