You know what’s pretty great? Bodies. The way they keep things ticking over, pushing through the aches and pains to get you from the bus stop to your bed. The fact that they are the very reason we are alive, the reason I am here typing this; we depend on them alone for our existence.
But you know what’s not pretty great? The pressure for bodies to look a certain way, as if they don’t have enough to be doing anyway. In our world of filters, fashion and #fitfam, our bodies are being pushed to the limits to look and fit a certain way.
This is old news. We (women in particular) have long been under pressure to appear how society think we should. And let me tell you, it’s hard work trying to work out what that is supposed to be, and how I’m supposed to achieve it.
Ideals change all the time, be it from body type to hairstyles, makeup, and clothes… it’s hard to keep track. Each decade brought a new body-type and a new ideal. In the 1920’s, girls were to be slim and petite with no curves. Flapper dresses wouldn’t look so good with a cleavage, now would it? Fast forward to the 50’s and if you didn’t resemble an hourglass counting down your attractive years, then sucks to be you.
And then we get to the 60’s. The years that changed everything – the remnants of which we still see today. Slim, tall, small breasts, long legged, collar bones … sound familiar? From the first appearance of model Twiggy, the general body image of super-skinny and super-slim has changed very little since then. Skinny still equals good, fat equals bad.
Though in recent years there has been a move to a more athletic, bigger booty and generally bigger body, it hasn’t changed everything. Ten years ago big boobs were every young girl’s dream; now a big butt is a must. The catch? That’s only desirable if you have a slim body to go with it. Even the majority of the gym gals on Instagram are still quite petite and slim. While I’m glad that the gym movement is moving towards a somewhat healthier outlook, there is still a lot to do.
Why do we waste so much time on what our bodies look like? Due to my innately lazy soul and somewhat boring year abroad, I’ve found myself more stationary than ever before, the result of which is weight gain. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice, and notice hard. I hate how much I noticed. And I hate how much it bothers me.
Because you know what’s really beautiful and amazing about my body? Its ability to wake me up three minutes before my alarm is about to go off so I don’t get the fright of my life. The way that each month, like clockwork, my period comes, my body sticking to its internal calendar and timetable. The way that I can walk the 297 steps of Sacre Coeur and the 284 steps of Arc de Triomphe without my legs giving out under me.
But, as we all know, it’s not always easy to see beauty in power or capability. We get distracted by size, by looks, by colour. An extra few centimetres here, or a bit of stubble there and we hate ourselves. We reduce our appetite, increase our exercise, or, if you’re like me, you stay in bed and refuse to wear skinny jeans again.
Yeah, a six-pack is nice to look at and I definitely wouldn’t say no to a bigger butt, but I think that says more about the world we live in than it does me. We’ve grown up in a world where we are urged to look a certain way, to buy the products that will get us there, and to believe that unless we look that way, we are not enough. We are unfinished, imperfect, less.
But there’s so much more to a body than what it looks like and how it feels. We should learn to look beyond what we see in the mirror. I want to remember, daily, that I live in a society that values size and shape over everything else. I need to remember. Putting on a pair of jeans that feel a little bit more snug than they did three months ago should not be cause for self-hatred, finishing that pizza is not a big deal. You don’t have to torture yourself for the rest of the week.
Repeat after me: your body is wonderful. And powerful. And can do so much more than look good in a #selfie.