Every morning we fanticize to wake up with a perfectly toned and a chiseled body, have porcelain skin and extraordinarily sharp- paper cut like features. We wish we looked anywhere close to Angelina Jolie or Bradley Cooper. HOW TO BE DESIRABLE? is the top Google search among 91% of teenagers and young adults ignited by the fast circulating internet trend like sheet thin waist and perfect thigh brows to the promotion of obnoxious beauty standards by the fashion industry, youngsters are caught in crossfire with their bodies and their self-worth.
Keeping these precipitating factor in mind we consider how not just one’s personality or inclination to neuroticism but the external factors such as body shaming and fat talk can cause grave injuries to a person’s mental health. There is some new fad every day in the industry that marks particular beauty standards and we’re telling boys and girls that they aren’t worthy enough if they don’t have six pack abs or thigh gaps or aren’t conforming to these set standards.
Most of the times it’s a small thing, it’s a cause of one’s insecurity, at least we assume it to be. But to the person who is going through body shaming is investing every minute of his/her life in reaching these unreachable, unnecessarily over- emphasized beauty standards. Throwing up after every meal and crying themselves to bed. We clearly see how our environment affects our mental health.
What one thinks about oneself is not just their personal evaluation but their evaluation of themselves through people’s eyes. Does he think I am too fat? Can she see my double chin? Oh I need to flex so my belly isn’t visible? No, you aren’t alone if you’ve ever stumbled upon such thoughts.
Why do we care? Why does a comment on instagram matter so much? Why are waiting to get follow requests and trying to stuff that tasteless salad and skip social gathering just to avoid being evaluated?
Maslow in his hierarchy of needs said that the most important part of our ever day lives encompasses of people and human beings evaluate themselves with the amount of respect that they get. Respect entails of recognition from others, status, social acceptance, appreciation, being desirable, so on and so forth. According to him, one need to feel satisfied with his affiliations to reach actualization and this is what builds a person’s self- esteem and maintains it.
In a study done by Nnaemeka and Solomon, they choose 400 undergraduate female students to test if at all self- esteem is a byproduct of body image. It appears that low self-esteem significantly correlated with distorted body image proving the hypothesis that one’s construction of self is through the eyes of others.
Our glossy magazines that display beautiful men and women to be oh so perfect, conforming to body ideals with the use of Photoshop and other digital means to erase humanly ‘flaw’ is one of the leading reasons for growing depression and low self-esteem is young adult. Increasingly cosmetic brands are gaining popularity with the claims of helping their clients attain the ‘perfect’ nose, lips, hips or even waist. A new law in France is now attempting to tackle what has become a public health issue in that country as well, where over 600,000 people suffer from anorexia or other eating disorders. The law, which went into effect this week, requires media images that are digitally altered to make models look thinner to be labeled as such. According to the French Ministry of Health, “It will be mandatory to use the label ‘retouched photo’ alongside any photo used for commercial purposes when the body of a model has been modified by image-editing software to either slim or flesh out her figure (Psychology Today, 2017).
Many a times these body standards are internalized in such a way that we forget what it is to be empathetic to people who are the victims of body shaming, too often they are tagged lazy, unhealthy and careless, completely neglecting their socio-psychological conditions or circumstances.’ Don’t you think you should wear something more of your body type’ ‘ you should totally stop eating fries , you’re expanding’ ‘ Maybe you can go to the gym twice a day’ ‘ Why is he complaining about being single with that fat all over’. Such comments are real and they don’t only exist on social media but are used in day to day conversation, this internalization of what is good or desirable body type is toxic and is a catalyst to developing low self-esteem, depression, suicidal tendencies and self-depreciating behavior.
An interesting study done by Orgen and Evans in 1996 used the effects of weighing an individual on their self-esteem, mood and behavior. The results showed that subjects allocated to the overweight group showed an increase in depression and a decrease in self-esteem following the manipulation, compared to subjects in the average weight group who reported improvements in these measures and the underweight group who similarly showed decreased depression, but showed some deterioration of their self-esteem
These results only justify how self-esteem is a prerequisite of body image and one’s body image is formed by the evaluation of self by others. Itching back to the media, societal norms and beauty standards, we can easily conclude that self-esteem is not personal but is of the society. When we engage in fat talk or body shaming behavior we unconsciously are being the reason for someone’s low self-esteem and hinder overall growth and happiness of a person. Not very often we realize that we are a part a part of the ugly industry that promotes and encourages outrageous ways of attaining the set benchmarks. What is an ideal body type is the question we need to ask ourselves, the one we accept it and own it with confidence of the one that conforms to the laws of beauty.
For very evident genetic reasons research proves that women are slightly more susceptible to low self-esteem through body shaming than men but keeping the other genders in mind is very important to avoid marginalization of these victims as well. Men and transgender aren’t spared as well; they are equally bullied and put down on the basis of their looks. The burden men have due to the need to conform to social hierarchies of power, force them to be less open and expressive about their feelings and insecurities, putting them in a doubly problematic situation, causing higher damage to their self-worth and their overall well-being.
Finally in Rae Smiths words “There is nothing with your body, but there is a lot wrong with the messages which try to convince you otherwise” and thus, by developing a mental buffer to negative emotions and constructing a wall in front of people who depreciate you for being yourself is the best exercise one can do to improve their self-esteem. After all “you never give someone the privilege to make you miserable”.