Permission to Be Real
The lengths women will go to, to feel accepted in society might include dieting, image distortion, and cosmetic surgery. Diet culture, the sum of all these products and services, tells us that our bodies are not good enough and would be better off if we changed them. It is because of comprised multibillion-dollar industries that overtly and subtly teach women that their value is tied to their beauty. The products, programs, advertising, and media create this problem (that our appearance determines our worth) so that solutions can be offered. Unfortunately, these solutions are meant to fail and create a negative body image so companies can profit off of the insecurity they have purposefully manufactured.
There is a direct link between negative body image and shame, which is embarrassment, guilt, or feeling like you have done something wrong. When we believe our bodies aren’t “normal,” we can experience these emotions, and they can become amplified by other factors such as mental health and self-esteem. They can be linked to serious health issues like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and eating disorders, and without proper intervention, there can be devastating outcomes. Hiding our struggles only leads to feelings of being alone, and these issues cannot be overcome or managed without support.
You don’t need to have a full-blown eating disorder or mental health issue to feel like you don’t belong or measure up. When we learn to hide our physical realness or present a false sense of mental stability, we take away our power to defend ourselves against the negative messages we are faced with. By not talking to each other about our truths, we only reinforce the cycle of judging and comparing ourselves to others.
With the rise in social media use, especially since the pandemic, we are faced with more pressure than ever to have an ideal body and live a perfect life. Connecting, in person or online, is essential, but not if those connections are inauthentic. It is possible to feel alone and be in constant contact with other people. When we feel disconnected from ourselves, we often feel the same with others and as if no one could understand what we are going through. We contribute to our own loneliness when we fail to believe that we are worthy of authentic connections.
We must permit ourselves to be real, and we can only do this by being open about who we are, despite what others may think. We need to have faith that people in this world face similar struggles or experience the same feelings. For every negative emotion, you have ever felt, someone out there has felt it just the same. There is nothing more healing or empowering than sharing your story.
It is equally important to surround yourself with body-positive stories, messages, and people because, frankly, it’s better for you. The Body Positive movement encourages people to challenge ideal norms by promoting the acceptance of all bodies as beautiful and worthy. We might not be able to escape exposure to diet culture; it’s in our feeds, books, televisions and is generally embedded in the fabric of our society, but we can actively choose what media we consume.
Choosing to see more real means you won’t feel so alone in your own realness, and when you see bodies that look like yours, ones that aren’t edited, you can begin to mend your body image. This goes for all of life’s experiences as well because reel life is not real life!
By Emily Lauren Dick
Author of Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your
Emily Lauren Dick is a body image expert and activist who is committed to making girls feel comfortable in their own skin. Her book, Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body, is the number one resource for young adult women who desire to redefine and understand true beauty. Emily believes that educating young people about body image, teaching resiliency, and normalizing real bodies is critical in combating negative thinking and improving self-esteem.