If I read another article about how the media objectifies women or watch another video of an attractive woman preaching about how girls should have a healthy body image, I may just lose it. This has become a very prominent topic in modern discourse, particularly intellectual discourse. I’ve seen three separate TED talks, numbers of YouTube videos, and an inordinate number of articles (most of which I’ve read) on the subject. In the age of social media, stuff like this spreads very quickly, especially if it resonates with people. I hate most of it, not because I disagree that young girls are having increasingly unhealthy body images, but because I have yet to see any of these advocates or scholars provide something tangible that these girls and women can actually use to help build their body images and develop healthy perceptions of themselves. So that’s what I’m going to do.
Simply put, it isn’t the media’s fault. The media sells what people buy, and because people keep buying damaging material, the media keeps producing. Standards of beauty come before their portrayal in media, not the other way around. It’s like blaming Pepsi and McDonald’s for selling unhealthy food. People buy it, so they sell it. It’s much more productive to create a culture in which women have healthy body images and cease to be consumers of the objectification that everyone is in an uproar about. Here’s some real practical advice that I think people can actually use.
5 Steps on the Path to a Healthy Positive Self Image
1. Eat Healthy and Exercise – Don’t do this to lose weight or try to make yourself look skinnier. Do this with the goal of being healthy. Keep your blood pressure low, maintain low cholesterol, take in enough calcium to maintain bone and breast health, etc… Healthiness is attractive by default because we are evolutionarily conditioned to look for healthy mates, but more than that, you’ll feel better if you’re healthy. You’ll be more positive about yourself, and it’s much more difficult to have a confident body image if you’re unhealthy.
2. Be Hygenic – Keep yourself clean; it’s simple. Shower, brush your teeth regularly, maintain your feminine health, get regular checkups at the physician, and so on. Cleanliness is another big part of a positive body image. It is a commentary on your own feeling of self worth. If you care about yourself, you care to present yourself cleanly and keep yourself hygenic. Being gross is an easy way to detract from being positive about yourself.
3. Stop Buying Cosmo, Vogue, and all that other crap – These magazines are full of nonsense. Not only is the advice contained within them wrong, it’s damaging to your psychology. It reduces human appearances to geometry, sex to procedures, and relationships to quizzes and games. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting. It’s unrealistic, but the reason these companies turn over multi million dollar profits is because people buy their products. Whether you “like” reading it or not, just stop buying it. It may be difficult if you’re a regular subscriber and avid fan, but if you remove this content and influence from your life, you’ll be much better off.
4. Dress Well – It doesn’t matter what anybody tells, having an attractive wardrobe, and having people compliment that wardrobe, significantly contributes to your own perceptions about your appearance. Hire an image consultant if you need to, or read some good literature about how to dress well for yourself and your body type. There are clothes out there for everyone, and for the most part, it’s about defining your avatar or look, and adhering to that in your clothing choices. It’s not difficult, and there’s plenty of quality advice out there and people out there to help with it.
5. Have Passions in Life – What do you want to do with your life? What sort of things do you enjoy? What do you want to accomplish? These questions should be priorities for you. Passionate people are sexy. They draw others to them, and they put energy and life into their surroundings. You shouldn’t drift through life without desires and passions. Figure out what gets you going, and dedicate time and effort to it.
If you follow these steps, not only will your life begin to change for the positive, your perceptions of yourself will grow to be less dependent on what others think. You will separate yourself from the need to be beautiful and realize that you are beautiful. Just try it; it’s better than sitting in the dark watching YouTube videos of lectures from attractive women who chastise the media for being evil.