Last week, the NSPCC released some shocking figures; they announced that in 2016, Childline provided almost 2,000 counselling sessions to young girls with body image concerns, and over 250 boys.
The NSPCC cited exposure to ‘body perfect’ images on social media, in magazines and on TV as the reason why children today, girls in particular, are concerned about the way they look.
My first reaction when I read this, was anger. I thought, how can we be doing this to the younger generation? How can we pass down our insecurities to children that shouldn’t even be aware of such issues at their age?
I have a six-month-old baby – I wondered how she would cope growing up in a world with increasing unrealistic standards…
Then it suddenly dawned on me that people of any age, young or old, shouldn’t be experiencing these concerns.
It’s all part of a wider problem that needs to change.
We’ve Set the Bar Too High
We are living in a world where expectations to look a certain way have never been so high.
Photo editing tools, which are used within the media and among Joe public, have created an ideal way to look that is unachievable.
Glancing through my Facebook feed just now, I can see why women, myself included, feel pressure. The pictures posted online are not spontaneous images that have been taken and uploaded with little thought and effort. Many people, again myself included, take a string of 10, 20, maybe even 30 images, before they find one that they are comfortable with. This image is then edited to such a standard that it becomes unrecognisable.
Let’s get one thing clear – flawless isn’t achievable in any sense of the word – no one has a flawless body or flawless skin or flawless features. In fact, nothing in this world is flawless, whether we’re talking about looks, personalities, or even the latest iPhone; everything has its flaws.
We have become acustomed to striving for something that is unattainable.
We’ve raised the bar high and now our children have a skewed view on what beauty should look like, and it’s our job to change it.
I’m not sure if blame – per say – is ever helpful and can actually improve a situation, but taking responsibility is very powerful, and enables change.
Even if you don’t have any children, you still have a responsibility to be mindful of the pictures you post online. Using filters to create a look that is realistically unachievable by anyone’s standards, is damaging to impressionable minds.
I have used filters. I’m not proud of it but I’m willing to get real about the situation in order to improve it. I have contributed to the problem, and it’s likely that you have too.
We are all part of the problem, and we can all do our bit to change the pressures that are placed upon men, women and children today.
We can also be mindful of the information that we digest through the media and television programmes, which means switching off from news outlets and TV shows that make us feel less-adequate.
Changing Our Perception of ‘Beautiful’
The pressures on people today, especially women, are immense; it’s unrealistic to expect every woman walking this earth to have long hair, a slim waist, plump lips and a pert bum. And I certainly don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that she must adhere to these expectations otherwise she’s inadequate.
So what can we do to change things?
What we ought to be teaching the younger generation, and ourselves, is that beauty comes in every form; there is no one definition.
We must learn to love ourselves for who we are and we must stop comparing.
How many times have you seen an image that suddenly made you feel vastly inadequate? Did you stop to consider the fact that the image wasn’t real? Of course you didn’t! That’s just not the way we tend to think. I bet that image made you feel like you weren’t good enough because the person whose image it was, seemingly had something that you didn’t, or could never, have.
Comparison is a losing game. To get past it, we must be aware of what’s real and what is not. Next time you see a photo that makes you feel inadequate, take a little longer to think about the journey that image went on before it was posted online, and how it was taken alongside many others that didn’t meet the cut, and was then edited to such a standard that it became unrecognisable from its original form.
We need to change ourselves as adults – our mindsets, our expectations, our ways, in order for our children to realise that it’s ok to be different. We need to teach our children that indifference is something that should be celebrated. We need to work on ourselves first and then our children will follow suit.
How will you participate in finding the solution, and will you?
Stephanie is a professional writer, blogger and the co-founder of Soul Analyse.
While she always tries to live in the moment, she feels it's equally important to look back at past experiences with open eyes to connect the missing dots and work out what we can learn for the future. She uses writing as a way to share her story with others in the hope that her past experiences can help someone else moving forward. She's also keen to gain knowledge from others' experiences and believes we can learn a great deal from one another!