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HEALTH | Body Positivity: Why Our View of Beauty is Distorted

Tall, blonde, flawless skin, big eyes and bee-stung lips, and not an ounce of fat in the wrong place — this describes much of society’s idea of beauty. How did this happen when we actually consist of a diverse group of people with a huge range of appearances, each beautiful, unique and special in their own way? Who decided that suddenly having a freckle in the wrong place, or a more curvy shape is bad? And why are these ideas constantly reenforced?

We are constantly bombarded with images of “perfectly [Photoshopped] people,” whether we are driving down the freeway and see a billboard advertisement for Coca Cola or Gap Jeans, or we are in the grocery store trying to pick out a box of cereal, images of flawless human beings surround us. No matter how hard you try, it is virtually impossible to avoid these images, and many of us have been exposed to them from a very young age. Barbie dolls with bodies perfectly molded of plastic, superhero comics featuring a muscular hero with a stunning smile, are what our future generations are told to look up to, emulate, and play with.

Jessica Alba, before and after Photoshop. (Chill Out Point)
Jessica Alba, before and after Photoshop. (Chill Out Point)

What are these trivial images of everyday life in the U.S. telling us? That you cannot be “beautiful” if you have any sort of imperfection or blemish, stretchmark, or wrongly placed scar? That heroes have perfectly sculpted abdominal muscles and teeth as white and shiny as pearls?

Anyone in their right mind would disagree, stating things such as: “people come in all shapes and sizes,” “everyone is beautiful in their own way,” etc. But how can your words be enough when every time you turn around you see another example of a perfectly Photoshopped person?

The Photoshopping of these images is creating an unrealistic and wrong idea of beauty. We are taught to feel self-conscious for possessing normal and beautiful human traits. How can we untwist our thinking, and start appreciating the beauty in imperfections?

Perhaps notice things about yourself that make you YOU! Maybe it’s your crooked smile, or wild hair, your big hands, or freckled skin — the list can go on forever. Each of these things is beautiful, and something you should be proud of, not ashamed! Accepting and loving yourself is the first step to creating a positive body image revolution; demonstrating love and care for yourself will inspire others to do the same for themselves.

I understand that this is easier said than done. When I look in the mirror it is likely that I will first notice the things I am self-conscious about: my prominent eyebrows, pink-toned skin, and stretchmark’s on my hips and legs. But I realize, these make me who I am, and being unique is beautiful. I could pluck my eyebrows, or try to erase my streachmarks to make myself conform to the social standard of beauty, but why? If someone is decides whether or not they want to be my friend based on my eyebrows, or how much body fat I have are they even worth being friends with? Unlikely!

Whenever you catch yourself wishing you could look like the beautifully Photoshopped image staring at you from a fashion magazine, just remember: our imperfections are what make us interesting, beautiful and wonderful! Someone out there loves your curvy thighs, or freckly face, big nose, or small chest, because you would not be the same without it!

Watch the video on the photo shopping process of photo to bulletin-board material:

Read Kendall Anderson’s earlier blog post: HEALTH | Body Positivity: To Look Forward One Must Look Back.

The Mills Body Positivity Group meets on Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. and Thursdays at 12:20 p.m. Check out the Facebook group:

Or email for more information.