If you read my last blog post, you know that a few weeks ago I designed an infographic for a class assignment. After publishing my post on “How to Create a Killer Infographic,” I realized that I gave you all of these fabulous tips on content and design, but I didn’t explain how I landed on the topic of body image.
Whether it’s for an essay, an infographic or a project, It’s not very often that a professor relinquishes the reigns and lets his or her students write on any topic they actually want to write about, which is why I was so taken aback by the assignment. Now that I had all of this power in my hands, I didn’t know what to do with it! I had never created an infographic before, and choosing a theme that would be compelling yet informational seemed like a daunting task. I wasn’t going to settle on something that I didn’t care about just to get the assignment out of the way, I wanted to create something that would be meaningful and even educational. I wanted it to serve a purpose.
After going back and forth between a few topics and getting feedback from my friend Gianna, (I constantly annoy her with all of my questions) I took a leap of faith and committed to a topic that I am truly passionate about. Body Image. Particularly how women are portrayed in the media and how unrealistic representations of beauty affect self-esteem. Yes, I could have easily chosen a lighter, less depressing topic, but what would be the point? I have been dealing with my own body image issues since I was in the fifth grade, and it’s time to start the conversation.
81 percent of 10-year-olds have experienced a fear of being fat. Just take a second to think about that. 10-year-olds have no business stressing over stuff like this; their biggest worry should be whether or not their mom put a fruit roll-up in their lunch box, not if their outfit makes them look fat. Unfortunately, this is the age that young girls start to experience self-esteem issues relating to body image, and it often gets worse from here.
Why is society so obsessed with outward appearance? Well, there is no simple answer, but media has certainly helped shaped the definition of beauty into something that is hardly attainable for the average woman. The average US model weighs 117 lbs. and is 5’11, while the average American woman weighs 140 lbs. and is 5’4. No wonder why women feel insecure. We are inundated with images of scantily clad models, disproportionate Disney princesses and photoshopped women selling beauty products. It’s unfortunate that women spend so much time thinking about how they look when they could be (gasp!) enjoying life instead.
To further prove how narrow society’s view of beauty is, only 6 percent of fashion designs were shown on black models during New York Fashion week last year, and 82.7 percent of runway spots went to white models. What is this teaching the diverse youth of America? That in order to be considered “beautiful” you have to be skinny, tall and white? These are impossible standards for the majority of Americans to live up to, so why has it stuck?
I don’t have an answer for that. But, I have noticed that more and more celebrities are addressing the issue publicly. Some of my heroes include Jennifer Lawrence who is famous for her bold comments on the red carpet like “It should be illegal to call somebody fat in T.V.” or Ashley Benson who spoke out about a photoshopped image she found of herself. It’s celebrities like this who give me hope that our culture’s definition of beauty is slowly widening.
Ironically, this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week, so information about body image and self-esteem has been all over the news. Even the Today Show launched a “Love Your Selfie” campaign, where the hosts revealed their own insecurities about their weight and appearance. It’s remarkable to see the Today Show hosts, who I watch daily and think are nearly perfect, talk about themselves in such a negative way.
Which brings me to my next thought, we would never call our best friend fat, so why do we think it’s okay to say it to ourselves? According to a study done by glamour.com, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily-nearly one for every waking hour. Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me. The amount of negative body thoughts I have about myself is probably double that number, and I couldn’t tell you how tired I am of not being satisfied with myself.
This type of negative self-talk can have some serious ramifications on our health, too. According to a study done at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, “women who stress over their body and diet have chronically elevated levels of stress hormone cortisol, and, as a result, may suffer from elevated blood pressure, lower bone density, higher amounts of unhealthy belly fat and even menstrual problems.” Gahh! We need to STOP being so hard on ourselves!
Believe me, I know this is way easier said than done, and I’m a walking example. I spend way too much time on my hair everyday and I refuse to go in public without a full face of makeup, but I will admit that I am getting better about how I talk to myself. And that’s a huge step for me.
Okay, I will wrap this up because I realize I have digressed. But, I have one request before I go: talk to your kids about body image! Teach them that their self-worth is not measured by how they look, it’s measured by their character and how they treat others. Stop talking about how fat you look in a swimsuit while your child is present, because they will pick up on those habits, too. And, one last thing, I challenge you to pay attention, I mean realllly pay attention to when you have negative body thoughts, and tell yourself to STOP talking to yourself that way, because you deserve better. You’re beautiful.