It’s no secret that self-esteem and body image are real issues in our generation, especially for young women. And is this really a surprise? Between the media, the fashion industry and just society in general, there are some pretty unrealistic expectations of beauty for today’s youth.
Last semester, I wrote a Dwyn’s Den about the women’s fashion industry and how sizing in the U.S is determined.
Essentially, companies survey a set of people, taking their measurements and then inserting them into a spreadsheet that averages everything, according to createafashionbrand.com (read Dwyn’s Den: Women’s Fashion Industry, for more). That Dwyn’s Den was, in all honesty, a long winded rant about the fact that I can never find pants.
That’s a fact of life though, right? If you’re a woman, you can probably count on one hand the number of jeans you have owned that actually fit you. There is a reason why you can walk around Sinclair and see an endless abyss of yoga pants and leggings: Jeans suck.
If they’re attractive, they don’t fit right, and if they fit right, they’re not attractive.
I have struggled with this and other clothing issues my whole life. Everyone’s bone structure and body type are different, which makes shopping in a sea of averaged numbers generated by a computer, rather frustrating. Being of Northern European, specifically Nordic, descent, I have a pretty specific bone structure that makes shopping difficult.
Now, on the other hand, that is probably the most effective way to size clothing for such a large population. But, in my opinion, never fitting into a pair of jeans in my life has never helped my body image issues.
Now onto the media. I have written whole academic papers on this subject. Airbrushing and photoshop have all but destroyed a good portion of women’s self-esteem, and at the very least dented it for a time. I know this was a pretty big problem for me growing up.
“Killing Us Softly” is a great series of talks on this subject that I highly recommend, as it explains exactly what airbrushing and photoshop in ads can do to women’s self-esteem.
But essentially, women in ads are airbrushed and manufactured to look like the ideal image of beauty, often altering them to the point where they don’t even look like themselves anymore.
Now, a countless number of young women look at these pictures and think less of themselves, because they don’t compare. This is awful, and in my opinion, unacceptable.
We live in a culture where young women learn to look at their bodies in a mirror and pick out, criticize and then try to change aspects of their appearance and in some cases personality. Why?
In the age of “love yourself,” “be you” and “everybody is beautiful,” we are still actively practicing self-hatred. I know it’s not as simple as saying “love yourself,” because not only is saying and doing two different things, but it takes a lot to combat all these aforementioned issues.
Change, unfortunately, isn’t going to happen overnight. And since I doubt the media and fashion industry is going to change anytime soon, we need to start small and be able to find the peace we need within ourselves.
I started small with a body positivity challenge. I committed to 1 week of no makeup, chapstick only; picking my outfit out before bed and forcing myself not to change 80 times in the morning. And instead of looking in the mirror and noticing things I would change if I could, or I wished were different, I picked one thing I liked about myself each morning.
I’ve continued the practice beyond the end of the week, and it’s amazing the impact doing those three simple things have had.
However, it’s not a cure-all. I still see “perfect women” on social media, but I am feeling less and less of a need to compare myself. And I hope that is something everyone gets to experience some day.
I think the important part of this, is finding something to show yourself you’re amazing just how you are, because just saying it won’t make you believe it. It is important to have self-care and practice active positivity towards yourself and your body.