At an achingly small seven-and-a-half stone, someone held a tape measure around my hips as I was told I needed to slim down. This was the final check-in with my modelling agency prior to me walking away before I was consumed by a cycle of low self-esteem. I was seventeen, an above average 5’ 8”, but the shortest model on their books. Further weight loss was encouraged to compensate for this ‘shortcoming’.
Young girls being pressured to having the “perfect” body
A slave to insecurities at school, I ate little food, involved myself in long distance running at lunchtimes and was in fear of peers seeing my face without layers of make-up. Castings for modelling involved frequent scrutiny of aspects of my body that I was self-conscious about. Hearing others discussing my imperfections became debilitating; even family and friends’ photos had to be taken from my left side to hide my slightly curved nose. Today, young girls are exposed to such pressure on a daily basis – mostly thanks to the ever-developing social media platforms and images of “perfect” females wherever they turn.
Identified as a narcissistic generation with selfies galore, all I see is an abundance of deeply insecure females. There are countless photos of celebrities claiming that they “woke up like this”, in spite of having an army of professional groomers, chefs, trainers. Is it any wonder girls fear that they are not matching up?
Where one news source praises a woman for showing her natural self, the next will exaggerate tiny flaws with the ‘circle of shame’. It is unsurprising that modern women are less confident about themselves than their mothers were at the same age and have 50% fewer positive thoughts, with worries about appearance dominating their concerns. It is easy to be sucked into the abyss of body shaming.
Media sells body confidence
Media sells body confidence with adverts for enhancement surgery – no mention of the pain, bruising, scars and obsession that accompanies it. We are inundated with cosmetic products that will allow the ‘real’ you to shine through, selling you beauty in a tube, casting those inner demons aside. Why should true body confidence be promoted when disliking yourself creates such revenue for companies?
A final note of reassurance
Unable to provide an easy answer, all I can do is to reassure. I grew to learn that venturing outside without make-up did not cause people to stare and whisper, putting on weight was not the end of the world. If you see a girl whose youthful face is hidden behind make-up – do not condemn her. She is doing what society demands of her. If a woman asks if she “looks fat in this” do not scorn her, reassure her. Think twice before sharing memes of what a ‘real’ woman is, and if a female is experimenting with her body and sexuality, do not call her a whore. Whatever sexuality, ethnicity or size you are, if you identify as a woman, you ARE a “real” woman. Experiment – look how you wish, but do it because you want to, not because you feel you need to in order to fit societal expectations. Do not shame others, do not allow others to shame you and never, ever be ashamed of yourselves.
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