CFNN Columnist, Sophia Bullard

Imagine this…You just got diagnosed with cancer. You’re on medications, you’re having treatments that cause you to have hair loss, lose weight, and become really weak. You haven’t told anyone about it, and you’re still going to school. One day a boy comes up to you in class and says, “You look too skinny, eat a burger.” 

Picture this story next; let’s say your parent has just passed away, you were diagnosed with depression. Depression can have its effects on everyone, but in your case it’s bad. You can’t sleep, you have random outbursts of anger, suicidal thoughts, and you eat to cope. You stop taking care of yourself and gain a lot of weight. You go to school and one of your friends looks at you and laughs. “You’re so fat. Take some diet pills or something.” This was your last straw, so as soon as you get home, you take those pills, but you took too many.

A girl has been dreaming of modeling since she knew what it was. She finally turned 21 and decided to try it out. She was beautiful, and had the ideal look for the job. She got on the runway and walked perfectly. Afterwards, the modeling agents called her over. “I’m sorry, you’re just too short for this job.” She was 5’6”. 

Two young boys were hanging out at a mall. One of them was pushing about 6’7”, and needed clothes that fit. He gets strange looks everywhere he goes and he hears whispering under their breath, “God, he’s tall.” The friends walked into a store and spent hours trying to find clothes that fit him. When they finally found something, they went to the cashier to buy it. The cashier looked up and said, “I’m surprised you found something, how’s the weather up there?” 

Everyone struggles with self image. Everyone has problems going on at home. Some people have it worse than others, and some have it better. However, at some point in everyone’s lives, they’ve been told they look too fat, too skinny, too flat, too thick, too short, too tall, too anything, not enough of this or that. Personally, I get told almost every week that I’m “flat” or “skinny”. I’ve been told that I look underweight and unhealthy, when in reality, I’m perfectly fine, my doctors have never said anything about my weight being a concern. I’m lucky enough to actually be healthy and secure in my body, though, while others aren’t.

Magazines and social media are two of the main sources that practically promote body dysmorphia and lowered self confidence. But another thing that really causes this… are ourselves. How many times have you looked in the mirror and thought about what you could change about yourself, or what you want to change, who you want to look like, who you don’t want to look like? In my opinion, if we didn’t have so many people in so many places telling us what we should or shouldn’t be doing or looking like, we wouldn’t have such negative thoughts toward ourselves. 

What you see every day on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram can understandably make you jealous of others or focus your thinking on your physical appearance and any perceived flaws. You may struggle to live up to these standards and experience negative feelings and judgements about yourself. This can become destructive when it diminishes your self-worth and body image. A fixation with how you look can create unrealistic expectations that are impossible to achieve. Even when you know that these idealized images are digitally altered or enhanced, it’s easy to fall into the trap of unfavorably comparing yourself…or others.

There are many causes that come from body shaming. Eating disorders are one of the most common effects from it. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, is very common. Excessive exercising, something you wouldn’t imagine being so recurrent, but is extremely habitual for people who struggle with the two previously mentioned causes. 

In recent years, there has been an effort to reverse body shaming and promote more love and acceptance of how we look. Social media platforms have utilized body positivity hashtags to gain more followers and help address the appearance-based prejudices that have been ingrained in us. Of course, it’s going to take time to change the ridiculously outrageous ideals of beauty. We all internalize these ideas in different ways based upon our cultural beliefs. Body positivity is a continuous journey towards accepting yourself and others. It takes patience and practice to change long standing social beliefs and learn self-love and security. You can’t control what others say or do, but you can change your thinking and start to view yourself as a whole person. Don’t forget to show yourself, and others, some love today.