One of the goals in a woman’s life is to be considered beautiful, right? At least, that’s if we believe what the beauty industry and media say. Fortunately, this is changing every day. That’s why today, 20 October 2021, we celebrate Love Your Body Day!
An unrealistic ideal of beauty
Every day, girls and women are bombarded with the message that they have to be sexy and beautiful to be seen as real women. And that’s not easy, because what’s beautiful and sexy is compressed into a standard beauty ideal. You’re thin, have smooth skin without scars, acne or stretch marks, your hair is shiny, and you gracefully smile at every man. In addition, you don’t dress in a way that’s too sexy (you’re not a slut), but certainly not too boring (because you’re not a wallflower either). Young and graceful, that’s what all women have to be. In movies, you often see that the actress in the leading role is younger than the actor. And, unlike male performers, female artists are almost always half naked on stage.
What’s Love Your Body Day?
If you read the paragraph above with astonishment and growing anger: we’re with you! And so is the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation, who have come up with Love Your Body Day. On their website, they write that the ideal of beauty for women is unrealistic, limiting, and sometimes even dangerous to your health. For example, the number of buttock implants is still skyrocketing, even though it’s relatively dangerous surgery. In addition, an estimated 200,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from an eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia.
The NOW Foundation is fighting against an unrealistic, unhealthy, and limiting ideal of beauty. They want to see more diverse representation: from the media, but also from ordinary women on social platforms. According to the Social Issues Research Centre, less than 5% of women have the perfect body, as we see in commercials and other media. And, those women who do, like professional models, work hard for it and their photos are also often retouched.
Love yourself as you are
According to the NOW Foundation, the Love Your Body campaign and day is new and needed. “The Love Your Body campaign challenges the message that a woman’s value is best measured through her willingness and ability to embody current beauty standards. As women we can educate each other on what healthy really is, discuss and expose the media’s use of retouching and altering of photos, and remind each other that every body is beautiful. We can speak out through social media, in class or in letters to the editor against negative portrayal of women.”
Where does this unrealistic ideal of beauty come from?
For years, women have been told that we’re only beautiful if we meet an ideal image – on TV shows, advertisements, movies, and series, and now also on social media. Beautiful women are filtered and edited even more, to make them look flawless. But luckily, there’s also a counter movement. Bad ass women like Serena Williams, Pink, Lena Dunham, and Amy Schumer refuse to conform to the beauty ideal. On social media, more and more women are showing themselves as they are. Without filters or Photoshop, with bulging bellies, a skin disorder, or just that ugly but hilarious picture that you’d normally delete immediately.
Tips for feeling more confident about yourself
It’s human to feel insecure. It’s also not something you can change overnight. What you can do is learn to be nicer to yourself. Often, we tend to judge ourselves harshly. Too lazy, too fat, too ugly: you can never really get it right. And, if you are satisfied, then you quickly accuse yourself of arrogance, because as we say in the Netherlands: “just act normal, that’s already odd enough”. You’ll never be perfect, so it’s better to be satisfied with yourself. And this is how you do it:
- Write down what you like about yourself. Do you have a lot of perseverance? Are you a good manager at work, or do you know how to keep your calm? Or perhaps you’re a very loyal friend?
- Be proud of yourself. This goes hand in hand with the above point. It’s pretty special, after all, that you can consciously plan some me-time or are always there for your friends and family. And you can certainly give yourself a pat on the back for that.
- Then look in the mirror or at pictures of yourself. Name three things you like about yourself. This can be your eyes, but also your attitude or clothing style. Don’t pay attention to negativity, but show compassion in the same way you do for others.
- You can learn to change your thinking. Perhaps the stretch-marks on your belly bother you, but a human being lived in that belly for nine months. Or a ‘food baby’, but who cares! You’re beautiful just the way you are.
- Take care of yourself. There are different ways to do this, as everyone has different needs. It could mean eating healthier, exercising more, getting more sleep, or making more (or fewer) appointments with others. Say “no” more often if you feel like you have no time for yourself, or visit friends or family more often if you’re socially isolated.
Reading tip: The new normal: sexy without insecurities