“I wish I looked like ____”
“I wish I had her stomach”
“I hate my legs”
Let me stop you there. We’ve heard all this self-loathing before. We’ve all been there. If anything, it’s promoted all over social media to desire what other people have. I’m a big fan of social media and I’m also a big fan of appreciating other people’s features, but I’m going to draw the line at desiring. What’s wrong with what we already have?
I’m going to hold up my hands and say that yes, I’m guilty of wanting someone’s much flatter stomach than mine. But on reflection, I really don’t think that was right in the slightest. I don’t know why this person’s body is the way it is: do they eat differently to me? Do they have a different all-round lifestyle? Do they have a different body shape to me? Or is it purely genetic? Why should I, in the body that’s uniquely different to everyone else’s, wish to have someone else’s body?
When it comes to your body, I believe it should be about improving yourself rather than wishing for features that you don’t possess. Your health goals may result in a similar look to those influencers, celebrities or friends you look up to, but it’s your body, and the truth is, it won’t ever be the exact same as theirs. Your hips may curve more than the person you look up to, your arms may be naturally more muscular than theirs, but that’s something you can’t change. My point is that I feel that the perspective must change. We need to stop the way in which we compare our bodies to others and rather focus more on embracing what we have and empowering others.
This is much easier said than done. It can be hard to look at yourself and not want certain aspects of your body to change. The perception I’ve had of my body has vastly changed within the past couple of years: the people I surrounded myself with have changed and my lifestyle changed (as did everyone’s with the pandemic), which allowed me to really focus on me. The impact that people and your surroundings have on you can really make or break your personal body image.
I started university a couple years ago now, and the people I met there just brought out another, more confident side in me. It can be as simple as them motivating me to be my true self when it comes to what I wear and how I feel, or them shooting me a compliment every time I see them that makes me feel ten times more confident than how I arrived. Joining a community that shares your passions and empowers you can also exude onto your body image too – how you feel mentally will impact how you feel about yourself overall. It’s okay to be picky with who you choose to spend your time with, for they will impact your opinion of yourself.
The pandemic forced me to spend a lot of time with myself and allowed for a lot of free time. I was never someone who liked to work out and never really did work out, but this period of not being able to do anything made me want to improve my health. I started googling Youtube videos, trying yoga, Pilates, home workouts, I started walking around more, and gradually my body started to change. I notice that when I do things physically to improve myself, I feel great. I feel accomplished. But the real breakthrough? Even when I stop working out for a few days, I still love my body, but I miss the post-workout feeling that exercising gives me. I look back at photos of myself a year ago and I think that I still look great but I didn’t feel as great as I do now.
I’ve never typed that I love my body before. I almost feel as if it’s taboo saying, especially when you’re not in the prime position that you know you can be. But this is part of the stigma that we all need to tackle: we need to be more open to embracing what we have, being honest with ourselves but loving ourselves anyway. I love my body, even if I pile on weight visually in my stomach first. I love my broad shoulders and the way my hips curve nicely outwards. I love that my arms and legs have a natural definition to them, even if they’re not as toned as they could be. But you know what else I love? I love my friend’s acne-free skin and how physically strong she is. I love the confidence that Adele had in her body before and after her weight loss. Do I desire all these things? No, but I appreciate them. Each person has their own individual journeys and may or may not reach the goals that they set for themselves. What do I desire? To embrace my body with every change it makes (and it will change), and to empower other people’s bodies. For now, I will focus on keeping my body healthy, setting realistic goals for my body and empowering myself.