Beauty standards are the idealized version of the female form that corresponds to the deepest needs and wishes in our current society. However, when beauty standards become unrealistic, it can be unhealthy to compare yourself with overly photoshopped and extreme perfection which isn’t achievable. Instead, practice positive self-care and be a great steward of your body.
In ancient times, when food was scarce, being plump and curvy was a sign of wealth. Today food is too plentiful; fast food is on every corner using every psychological method to lure you in. So, in this day and age, being thin shows personal restraint and intelligence.
Still, when you open a magazine, you are not seeing reality. You are seeing a form of art. Similar to the way sculptures are based on models, the end result of a photo in a magazine is an interpretation of a model. The woman has been trimmed, buffed, and changed to an idealized version, much the way Michelangelo carved the statue, David.
But a photo in a magazine looks much more realistic than a marble statue. It’s dangerous to confuse what you see in magazines for reality.
Often when people chase that ideal they end up turning to plastic surgery, eventually looking like an uncanny version of themselves. It’s like if someone actually had the proportions of Barbie, they would look bizarre.
Yet, it’s also unhealthy to swing in the opposite direction and just embrace being overweight, which comes with a slew of risk factors.
The third alternative is to strive for the best version of yourself through self-care. Self-care is about being a good steward of your body.
Prioritize Long Term Gains
First and foremost, prioritize the long term gains over the short term. It may sound like I’m talking about financial investments, but what this means is to think about the future. If you are trying to look your best, you’ll want to not only look good today but for the rest of your life.
What would your future self thank you for? For example, the ten minutes you use every day to put on makeup offers benefits for a few hours until it wears off or smears. The same amount of time daily on exercise would give you benefits for a lifetime. I’m not saying give up makeup, but exercise could be better for your skin than your foundation.
Compare Yourself To Who You Used To Be (Not to Others)
Looking in the mirror every day isn’t necessarily vanity. It is a form of self-reflection. Carefully observing yourself can help you get closer to reality. When our brains don’t have a piece of information, it often fills in the blanks for us. This often leads people to inadvertently lie to themselves about their bodies.
By staying in touch with what is in the mirror you can compare yourself to who you used to be, not to the women on Instagram. Progress is far more important than perfection.
When you look in the mirror, it’s ok to be unhappy with what you see, but comparing yourself with others is tricky. You don’t know what others are seeing when they look in the mirror. This brings us to negative bias.
Understand Negative Bias
Negative bias is the human tendency to remember the bad more than the good. While this may sound unfair, it’s actually super important evolutionarily speaking. Our ancestors wanted to remember the poisonous berries.
What does this mean for your body image? You notice your flaws more than anyone else. When you look in the mirror, you may only be able to see the pimple on your nose. In your eyes, that pimple is so big, it basically takes up your entire face. When you feel this way, remember you have a negative bias.
Everyone else is too wrapped up in their own pimples to notice yours. It can be sad to realize how little people notice you, but also kind of liberating. When you walked into the cafeteria as a kid and thought everyone was looking at you, they weren’t.
Take Actual Measurements on Your Body
That may sound strange, but in an effort to get closer to reality, it’s important to measure yourself, weigh yourself, and take progress photos. You don’t need to track this obsessively, but periodically get an idea of where you are. This is especially important if you are feeling insecure.
A lot of body positivity content may tell you to just change your mindset and love your body at any size, but in my experience, if I’m feeling insecure there’s usually a good reason.
A couple of months ago, my clothes weren’t fitting well, and I just felt yucky. I decided to face the music and step on a scale. I was seven pounds heavier than what I expect to see on the scale. While it wasn’t fun to see that number, it was oddly validating. My intuition was correct.
On the other hand, a few years ago, I lost quite a bit of weight, but I still felt fat. It took research and observing my body carefully to understand my intuition there was also, partially, correct. I was skinny, but I needed to implement a strength training program to add muscle. Once I started adding the muscle tone, I started seeing the body I wanted to see.
When you feel insecure, listen to that part of yourself and make the effort to confirm or deny with actual evidence.
There are many different measures for tracking your fitness progress:
Your Age Isn’t a Lifestyle Choice
My last tip is to remember that age isn’t a lifestyle choice. One of the unrealistic aspects of beauty standards is that it basically ignores age.
Aging is a part of life, but aging is invisible in our modern world. In the day to day, women dye their hair, botox their wrinkles, and cover up with lots of makeup. In media, older women virtually don’t exist. Youth, beauty, and fertility are the standards.
Take great care of yourself and be a steward of your body, but also don’t forget that aging is natural. Every year we get on this earth is a blessing.
You don’t need plastic surgery or ridiculously expensive moisturizers to be the best version of yourself.
Remember, beauty standards are not reality, they are the ideal. When you look at social media, you are seeing women through filters at the best possible angle. But positive self-care is the way to love and honor your body by staying in reality.