Body Image + Social Norms

Personally, this is a heavy topic. But alas, I think it is really important to talk about. The reason I have been thinking about this so much is that I saw an article about Adele and her weight loss "transformation". My opinion is: REALLY? She was posting about her birthday and thanking the essential/healthcare workers, and you felt it necessary to comment on her weight? "HOW DID SHE DO IT?" WHO CARES. Adele, if you didn't know, is a GRAMMY WINNING, SUPER TALENTED musician/artist. Yet, our society seems to think that her weight loss is super important. That made me really MAD. Then, we just recently lost Chadwick Boseman, an amazing and kind actor, sadly to Colon cancer. But before he passed away, there were numerous instances of people commenting on his weight (he hadn't shared his health concerns). People were actually poking fun/bullying a man that was going through chemotherapy and radiation. He actually removed a video of him in order to avoid any more negative comments on his appearance. Can you imagine being extremely ill, in a very vulnerable situation, while STILL WORKING, and being picked on about your appearance? WHO DOES THAT? HOW IS HIS WEIGHT ANYONES FLIPPING BUSINESS?!


The society that we live in benefits from us having a "negative" body image, businesses profit from our consumer lifestyle, and now, increasingly, we are "policing" others on their own bodies, sometimes as a form of entertainment. Social norms are taught to us in all different kinds of ways: advertising, celebrities, movies, tv shows, magazines, retail stores, other people/parents/loved ones, culture/religion, social media, ACTUAL rules/policies, etc. I have a lot of feelings about this. I only have my own perspective to speak from, being a cis, heterosexual woman in my 30's, so this will mostly be directed/written for a woman audience. I also want to acknowledge that my feelings can often be contradictory, and to be honest, I am 100% ok with that. It is ok to have two opinions/feelings about something. But let me take you back to some of my first experiences with this topic, and I'd like to ask you to do the same for yourself. Here it goes...


I had to start wearing glasses in the 3rd grade. I, unfortunately, inherited my father's eyesight. I was actually excited about it! I thought glasses were cool. But, apparently, that's not what everyone else thought, and they told me so. If I had had more self confidence, it probably wouldn't have bothered me. But the "four eyes" comments dug their way under my skin. Later in elementary school, my friends and I started wearing makeup. I specifically remember a tube of purple lipstick I purchased at Target, and I thought I was SO cool. I didn't know what I was doing, and no one ever really taught me. I did know that we were wearing this stuff to make ourselves more appealing, or "pretty". I know my older sisters wore makeup and did stuff to their hair, as they were already in high school.


I also remember being in Junior High, and feeling really insecure about my eyebrows and how bushy they were, or so I was told. That is when I began waxing them into TINY eyebrows ,as I am pretty sure a lot of you have experienced as well. I remember I felt so self conscious about wearing glasses that I stopped wearing them (TERRIBLE IDEA), and almost failed 9th grade because I couldn't see the quizzes on the overhead projector. Junior high is really the time where I realized that boys didn't like me, and that I wanted them to like me, and that I had to compete with all the other girls, and that ME, just normal me, wasn't enough.


Negative comments on our bodies can have lasting effects on our self confidence, change how we feel about ourselves, make us more judgmental of others, be less trusting of others, feel like an outcast/weird/misunderstood/unloved/unwanted, and so many other ways that just, HURT.


I am not going to go into more of the experiences I had, as I could write forever. But the one thing I take away from all of that is: DANG. School is hard enough. You are learning so many things. But just in case, lets throw in growing physically (in my case: hips, periods, acne, breasts, height), and now the attention of the opposite sex (or your preference), and the competition that begins with the people who MOST understand what you're going through. I wish I could go back and tell that girl "Hannah, you are smart and you are beautiful. Concentrate on school, because that's what you love! All of this other crap is just an unnecessary distraction!". If this resonates with you, I just want to say that I HEAR YOU. I also want to acknowledge that boys/men go through these sorts of experiences as well, even though they differ. I HEAR YOU as well.


Your feelings and experiences have VALUE. READ THAT AGAIN.


But guess what? Your appearance doesn't define your BEAUTY. It never has. Your hair. Your skin. Your body. Your face. Your lips, eyebrows, cheekbones, eyes, ears. Your feet. Your knees. Your calves. Your thighs. Your butt. Your arms. Your stomach. Your chest. ALL OF IT. IS. AMAZING. You are a magical being. Plain and simple.


You probably already know this about me, but I am not a conformist. I am proud of that. I am not that way for "trendy" reasons. I am that way because I like to question everything, and the deeper I dive into the person I am, the more I realize that some of the things I have been doing all of my life dont align with the person I am. I love to ask "WHY?","How does this make me a better person?", and "How with this help me serve others?".


Now, I understand the idea or theory that we as a species attempt to be more attractive in order to attract a mate. We also want to attract an attractive mate. Attractiveness and/or symmetrical persons are often signs of good "genes" and we want those in order to procreate. But, we are also sentient creatures, and want and have more to offer than just our physical appearance. We have different interests, abilities, and skills. We all have our own special sauce. We want to connect!


Body Hair: The removal of body hair didn't really begin in the United States until the beginning of the 20th century. Hem lights started to rise, and women began wearing sleeveless shirts. Interestingly, there is no functional reason (except for maybe swimming) to remove body hair. The beauty and fashion industry CREATED this problem in order to SOLVE it. In order to SELL you something. RAZORS. HAIR REMOVAL CREAM. SHAVING CREAM. MAKEUP. HIGH HEELS. We actually have hair all over our bodies for a reason. Mostly to regulate our temperature, and to keep out unwanted parasites and unknown particles (just forms of protecting our bodies).


FUCK THAT. We do what we're told. They use our low self esteem in order to manipulate us into buying things we dont need. They are holding "beauty' hostage, and are literally defining it to us in order to SELL THINGS. SELL THE IDEA OF BEAUTY. Guess what? Your beauty doesn't depend on: how much hair you have; how high your cheekbones are; how long your eyelashes are; what color your hair is; if you have cellulite; what your waist size is; what size butt you have; what your cup size is, etc. I COULD GO ON AND ON.


Fun fact: I dont shave under my arms. Not my problem. I will not continue to add to the long list of things I *NEED to do as a woman in order to be "beautiful" or "feminine". I do not shave my lady area. SAME REASONS. I want you to know that it is TOTALLY ok for you to do that yourself. You do you! But, I also want you to be mindful of judging others for not doing that. I've literally had someone tell me that I won't be able to find a partner because I dont shave. THIS. This is why I continue to NOT SHAVE. It is sort of my way of weeding out pretentious ASSHOLES. Maybe I should put that in my profile if I ever create one on one of those dating apps?


Before I bust some more "beauty" myths, I just want to keep reminding you that BEAUTY is not defined by your appearance. READ IT AGAIN.


Also: YOUR APPEARANCE IS NONE OF ANYONE'S BUSINESS. READ IT AGAIN.


Cellulite: We all get it. It's normal. What is it, you say? Fat deposits below your skin. That's it. We have fat. We should have fat. The level of cellulite you have might differ depending on your age, the thickness of your skin, how much muscle you have, if you are predisposed to cellulite (genetics), etc. Either way, it is NORMAL. Stop comparing yourself to other peoples bodies, especially bodies that have been photoshopped. ESPECIALLY THOSE. I have cellulite. I haven't worn a regular bathing suit since I was? 15? because I feel so overly insecure about my cellulite, scars from moles I had removed when I was younger, AND that I dont shave my bikini area. HOW STUPID. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. BE PROUD OF YOUR BODY.


Weight: First things first, your weight isn't anyone's business. It also doesn't define your BEAUTY. This goes ALL of the ways. Thin, in the middle somewhere, and "overweight". The reason I bring this up is because our society is so hyper focused on people's weight. "Thinness" is ideal. But don't be too thin, because people will think you have an eating disorder, or that you're sick. But dont put on too much weight because people will think you have no willpower and that you're lazy. ALL of those statements are false. This type of thinking LEADS to body dysmorphia, and often, eating disorders. We have normalized "dieting", often obsessively, in order to be thin. This mixed with exercise, which can also become an obsession. You can even become obsessive with something that from the outside seems totally normal, but actually has very negative consequences. Example:


Orthorexia: an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating.

WARNING SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF ORTHOREXIA

  • Compulsive checking of ingredient lists and nutritional labels

  • An increase in concern about the health of ingredients

  • Cutting out an increasing number of food groups (all sugar, all carbs, all dairy, all meat, all animal products)

  • An inability to eat anything but a narrow group of foods that are deemed ‘healthy’ or ‘pure’

  • Unusual interest in the health of what others are eating

  • Spending hours per day thinking about what food might be served at upcoming events

  • Showing high levels of distress when ‘safe’ or ‘healthy’ foods aren’t available

  • Obsessive following of food and ‘healthy lifestyle’ blogs on Twitter and Instagram

  • Body image concerns may or may not be present

I understand that when you are trying to make changes in your diet, at first you are really paying attention, verging on obsession because you are learning. But when it is no longer temporary, that is when this obsession becomes a problem.


The thing I have a problem with is the deception that being thin means that you are healthy. This is not always true. I dont know about you, but I know from experience that probably since I was 12, I have experimented with all kinds of diets and disordered eating, all in the hopes of being "thin". This goes the other way too. The idea that being "overweight" means that you are unhealthy. This is not always true either. I have, at the ripe age of 32, just figured out what my body looks like in a healthy state. When I feed it what it needs, exercise regularly, and take care of my mental health, this is what it looks like. Do I weigh the same as I was when I was 18? Nope. Do I look like the girls in my social media feed/magazines/movies? NOPE. It has taken me awhile to realllyyy absorb that. This is healthy. I am still working on removing the brainwashing we endure on the daily through our entire lives on what "beauty" looks like. Your appearance doesn't define your BEAUTY. Even if you aren't at your healthiest state, please know that your weight isn't anyone's business, and it also doesn't DEFINE YOUR BEAUTY. Wear what you want. Show what you want. Do what you want. Be what you want. THAT is beautiful.


My advice: Do not comment on other people's appearance without requested feedback. You are, even if unintentionally, reinforcing shitty social norms. It doesn't matter, and it's none of your business. DO NOT BODY SHAME YOURSELF OR OTHERS. PLEASE.


Bras/Breast Size: You either personally experimented with "stuffing" your bra when younger, or you knew someone who did. I mean, if you are a woman. Maybe you did if you are a man? I dont know exactly when I started wearing a bra? But I wish I never had. What is the point again? I have never had much in that area, and for a while I felt embarrassed by that. However, I was reminded that there are benefits to not having large breasts: less tissue so maybe less of a chance of getting breast cancer; and easier to find shirts that fit. I know exercise wise, bras are helpful for "compressing" your breasts, in a sense. Otherwise they hurt from too much movement. Also, I understand if you have larger breasts, you might need some support otherwise there could be pain. But otherwise? I dont know. I am on my way to never wearing one ever again. In our society, that is not acceptable, unless your looking to be "slutty". Why are we "sold" the idea that we "want" to wear these painful cages, that are also expensive, and unnecessary? According to social norms, as far as I can tell, bras have two purposes: to hide our nipples, and to make us "sexy" by pushing up our breasts and creating cleavage. They used to try to sell us on the idea that wearing a bra will delay the "sagging" of our breasts, but this has been proven false, that maybe even the opposite is true-it leads to our breasts sagging MORE. Either way, our skin loses elasticity as we age; its inevitable. As far as I know, bras are a more modern version of corsets, which were initially created to shrink your waist and lift your breasts. Corsets would also restrain the woman wearing it, making it hard for her to move (you will see that high heels also have this in common).

Other things I dont understand are: why is this excess tissue we have with mammary glands in order to feed our children sexualized? + why does having our nipples scene through our shirts "wrong"? WE HAVE NIPPLES. WHY ARE WE HIDING THEM UNDER BRAS?! I dont get it. Men have them. Are they hiding them? NO! This is just dumb. Does this have something to do with THEY ARE JUST SELLING US MORE STUFF WE DON'T NEED, MORE THINGS FOR US TO "WORRY" ABOUT. Ugh. Call me a "Bra Burning Feminist" if you'd like. I won't take offense, but quite the opposite.


Stretch Marks: Another thing that is totally normal. I have them all over my inner thighs, my butt, and my back. They can happen for numerous reasons, and it's really just the scars that come from your skin stretching and healing. I have them because I had a growth spurt when I was younger. Some people get them on their tummies from being pregnant. Some people have them because of weight change. Some people getting them from gaining muscle. Either way, they are NORMAL. They are nothing to be ashamed of.


I could go on and on about all the other things we do in order to be "beautiful" or "attractive" ( high heels, makeup, specific clothing we wear, cosmetic surgery, etc).


My point is: You are beautiful just the way you are. Your appearance does not define your beauty. "Social norms" are made up. You do not have to play by these rules. Can that be uncomfortable? YES. Is it worth it? YES. It is not ok to comment on someone else's appearance, nor is it ok to judge someone based on how they look. It is 100% ABSOLUTELY NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. + Vice Versa.


Sometimes, I just feel so overwhelmed by how much I "have" to do, almost like maintenance, in order to be "beautiful" by societies definition. It is TOO much. It is a distraction from all the other things I could be spending my time on; spending my money on; spending my thoughts on; spending my emotional energy on. Imagine if we took all the time/money/energy we spent on trying to be "beautiful" and refocused it on bigger, better, more meaningful, impactful, purposeful, heart centered things! Imagine how much lighter we would feel if we stopped comparing ourselves and our bodies to unreasonable, unattainable, unnecessary standards. Imagine how much better we would feel if we changed the lense we viewed others with to one of compassion, kindness, love, non judgement, and seeing people as a whole, a beautiful whole person, instead of separating them from their bodies. Imagine if we stopped spending our hard earned money on beauty products, procedures, clothes, shoes, accessories from businesses who profit from our insecurities that THEY CREATED to begin with, and rather, we spent that money on experiences, foods that fuel our bodies, tools/things that make our lives more enjoyable, and invested it in ourselves, our BEAUTIFUL selves.


What if we exercised in order to make our bodies stronger, and healthier, instead of look "better"or "thinner" or more "muscular/fit"?

What if we wore clothing that made us more productive, faster, and made us feel good in our bodies?

What if we accept and LOVE our bodies unconditionally because they are apart of who we are, instead of constantly trying to "fix" them when they are already perfect?

What if we listen to what our bodies REALLY need, ate when we were hungry, and fueled our bodies with healthy foods, rather then starve them, or binge, or punish them? Rested when we needed to, and made sure to take care of it?


OUR BODIES ARE TEMPLES. YOU ARE THE GODDESS AND GODS OF THIS TEMPLE. Sorry if that sounds cheesy (actually #notsorry). Wanna color your hair blue just because? GO FOR IT. Wanna shave your legs because it makes you feel good? GO FOR IT? Wanna grow out your beard? GO FOR IT. Wanna quit wearing a bra? GO FOR IT. Wanna get plastic surgery? GO FOR IT. Wanna lose/gain weight? GO FOR IT. Take care of it. We gotta make it last, and this thing you're living in (your body I mean), it's gonna carry you until the end. #YOLO


I AM HERE FOR IT ALL. I SAY: DO YOU. BUT! When you are doing you, please ask yourself this:


Are you doing this because you want to? Or because society tells you to? Are you scared of what "they" will think if you decide those "norms" dont align with who you are and what you want? If so, FUCK IT.


You are SO BEAUTIFUL. As a WHOLE. Sit with that. Don't let anyone put doubt in your mind and heart about that. YOU GOT THIS.








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