By Shefa Ali
This month I was asked to be a part of an international magazines’ feature on beauty, sharing my thoughts on beauty and its meaning.
The subject got me thinking about my own relationship with self- image. When I was 21 and in university, I was slightly chubby, but for the last few years I guess I have had the kind of figure that a lot of people would say they want. Even though my confidence hasn’t been high all the time, I am also often told that ‘you are so skinny’ or ‘your face looks so thin.’ Add to that, I am quite pale in a time where the cultural ideal is to be full and bronzed.
I used to be very self-conscious about my flaws and wasted so much time on caring what people think. Over the years, I have come to realise that I am so much more than a face and body and that I am the one who gets to set my own standards of beauty, which I base on attitude, confidence and character.
What kind of world do we occupy when most people admit to thinking “I hate the way I look” at least once a day? As if being fitting in with today’s beauty standards will solve all our problems. As if complying to those standards will make people like us and bring us self-worth. As if looking like that gives us control. And you know how fiercely we will grab any opportunity to be in control of our lives.
Social media may not create new problems for women, but it does certainly intensify the existing ones. Social media has made a constant ability to critique and analyse bodies in such a way that promotes body dissatisfaction, constant body surveillance, and disordered thoughts — all of these factors that can potentially lead to very serious eating disorders. Being over-weight or not looking like the Instagram hot-shots seem to be considered failure or weakness these days.
I learned to like myself more when I started yoga. It is a beautiful and empowering practice. I began to look at my face and body as something with a use and purpose, something created to do things, not just something that existed to be looked at and critiqued.
I believe we should find something that our body likes and do it regularly. When you are feeling down or insecure about yourself, remember that you have a good body that allows you to perform so many activities. Try to conquer negative thoughts by replacing them with something positive.
Being over-weight is not a disease and is not contagious. The only thing that is contagious is the temptation to turn it into self-hate. We need to stop passing around these toxic messages. We need people to know that their bodies exist for them to use, not simply for others to look at.
No one can convince you that you look perfectly fine. Body image can feel like a battle we all wage to some degree at some point in our lives. I think it’s a generational thing, you reach an age where you are liberated from caring what other people think. Mould your own standards of beauty, instead of letting society, the advertising and cosmetic industries set them for you.
* The author is a consultant and coach. Instagram handle: @miss_shefa, Website: missshefa.com
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