Body positivity is one of the biggest challenges we face as women today. I know I’ve fallen victim to anxiety and comparing myself to others when it comes to my body. I’ve suffered from believing that I’m not enough and I’ve certainly have allowed myself my share of my own negative self doubts about my body. We all have at some point or another.
It’s bad enough to beat yourself up but it’s even worse that I’ve been body shamed at my thinnest and at my heaviest by others. My sophomore year of college, my best friend and I were called anorexic on anonymous college gossip website. I was “too thin.” Fast forward another year in time and I found myself being shamed for just the opposite. In college, I definitely never said no to a good party and was living my life to the fullest at that point. With all that fun (and alcohol), came the junior 15. I’ll be honest, in reality it was more like the junior 20. I’ll never forget one night right at the end of my junior year. A very mean girl (emphasis on the very) came up to me at a bar and yelled “You’re so fucking fat!” Granted, there was bad history between me and this girl. But, of all the things she could choose to say to me I couldn’t believe that was what she said. Women body shaming women is a huge part of the problem we have in our society today and stems from the larger problem; the ideas that have been put into our head of what “beautiful” means in our world today. I was by no means fat but the words hit close to home after already feeling self conscious about my recent weight gain thanks to society’s unrealistic expectations. There is so much pressure to fit into this ideal mold and I was feeling pretty bad about myself. At barely five feet tall, I would have been considered overweight by many at the time. I was so mortified that she said this in front of 30-40 other people who all turned around and stared. I just burst into tears. That experience in college may have saddened me but it definitely made me stronger. It only served to fuel my desire to break away from the standards that plague us today and showed me that women fat shaming each other contributes nothing to the cause.
Luckily, it seems like the beauty industry is making some moves in the right direction lately. If you’ve watched or read the news this week, you’ve probably heard a lot about body positivity and body image. You may have heard that CVS has pledged to stop photo-shopping it’s marketing materials in the beauty section of its stores. This is a big step for the pharmacy giant and an important development in the beauty industry. In 2014, Aerie stopped photo-shopping their models and began including models of all different shapes and sizes in their marketing campaigns. More recently, brands like Target and ASOS released unaltered images for their swimsuit sections on their websites. It’s great to see another big brand following suit and hopefully this is the beginning of a revolution in our beauty industry.
The simple act of not photo-shopping wrinkles or waistlines has the potential to have a huge impact on girls growing up today. It has the potential to change our beauty ideals by cutting to the root of the problem, which has been the portrayal of the “perfect” woman in society. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I flipped through countless fashion magazines devouring the articles, full page sized ads and my favorite part; the clothes. The one thing that always stood out to me was how thin and “flawless” all the models and celebrities seemed. It’s ads like these that have set the standards of the beauty industry we know today. They have set the standards that say we must be stick thin, have smooth skin, or even have long hair. They have unfortunately set the idea of what our society considers “beautiful.” It’s no secret these days. There has been plenty of research backing the link between unrealistic body images and the negative health effects and impacts on young women. When images like are constantly smacking you in the face, it’s hard to ignore and even harder to believe that it isn’t what should be considered normal. But guess what? We live in America. One of the best things about the country we live in is how diverse it is and how everyone is unique. So why does the concept of “beautiful” here have to fit in a one size fits all category?
The fact is, it doesn’t. More and more we are seeing some of these companies making the shift towards less altered ads. It’s so important because we have the chance to change the perceptions of younger girls who will be the next generation to see these ads. Currently, our unrealistic ideas of beauty image have contributed to anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Young minds are the most impressionable. If younger girls grow up seeing ads more reflective of real women and real life then that will be what they consider normal. We have the chance to change the trend.
From a strictly consumer viewpoint, I think this kind of transparency is also important. When you are going to the store to buy a beauty or skincare product, you are looking for results. If you are influenced by a photo-shopped ad, you are left after using the product asking yourself “Why didn’t I get those type of results?” It makes the marketing deceitful and only contributes more to the anxiety we have when comparing ourselves to those in those ads.
As a blogger, I have a chance to participate in this social conversation and help to influence this change in the beauty industry standard. As influencers, many follow us to get our advice on fashion, beauty, travel, wellness and more. In a lot of cases, readers come to us to get an authentic look at our lives and what we are doing on a daily basis. They appreciate that they can come to blogger’s pages to see a more realistic lifestyle than that of a celebrity. They appreicate our “real lives.” In order to provide this to our readers or followers, we need to be as honest and authentic as we can truly be. When I see such heavily photo-shopped or Facetuned images on my feed, it upsets me because it means we are just spreading the problem. We are projecting an unrealistic image onto others through their Instagram feeds rather than being our most authentic selves. How is that any different than seeing an altered photo in a magazine then? There are so many teenage girls using Instagram now that are seeing these cultivated bits and pieces of our lives and if we don’t show them what’s “real” then they are left with this distorted view of what life is really like. Have I used Facetune to erase a blemish? Absolutely and I will never deny that. Has it been tempting to alter my waist or thighs on a bad round of photos when I’m not feeling my best? Of course. But, I won’t do that because I won’t contribute to the underlying issue here which is that the pressure to post that picture with my thighs looking skinnier is because society told me I should WANT to look like that. We need to end that cycle.
I never thought I would say this but something that LaLa Kent said on Vanderpump Rules on Monday’s episode really stuck with me. Yes, I know I am quoting Vanderpump and yes, i know that is ridiculous. She said each morning she gets up, looks in the mirror and tells each body part that she loves it. She tells herself that she’s awesome and no one is going to take that away from her today. I think that’s something a lot more of us should be doing. Lately, I feel like the news have centered around spreading positivity to others in times of darkness but that doesn’t mean we should forget about ourselves in the process too. It’s important to make sure we continue this conversation and influence change.