Friday, 9 February 2018

A Body Image Query

I don't own a full-length mirror or bathroom scales.

Yes, I know that's a weird way to start a blog post but bear with me. It will all make sense in the end.

A few years back, I wrote one of my fave blog post - mainly because it took so long to research and write up - which talked about sex educations in schools and wondering if it's a little outdate and should be updated to tackle consent, physical and mental health, asking whether TV programmes and soap opera should talk more openly about safe sex and STD, and on body image.

I am hugely proud of this post and have always gone "There's stuff in here I want to talk further on" but never really gave it much thought. Till November of last year. I was on holiday in the Lake District and, when I was on the hotel's wifi/4G, I checked my instagram for some stupid reason and saw three photos of people I follow being shirtless and doing gym progress in very quick succession.

And I felt... It's hard to explain, but I felt... off... 

Now, I am not saying "How dare these people post these images!". I have nothing against these pictures and yes, some pictures I have seen on here since then are hot, but I have moments when I look at myself and go "God, I wish I had more muscles in my arms, chest, stomach...". A little while later, I'm usually fine. I like my body. Ok, I didn't love it - I never love my body, but I accepted it and was enjoying eating delicious food and not thinking about my mental wobble over my body image.

A few hours/days later, I kept thinking about those images - no, let's rephrase that. I keep thinking about my reaction to those images, trying to figure out why I felt inadequate and uncomfortable in my own skin, wondering why this was a big deal and why wasn't I not letting this issue drop. I kept circling back to it. If I dislike the way I looked, why don't I do something about it? Well, I like my body and I don't want to. I like my body... I think.

See. It's the I Think that got to me. Where did that come from?

I've had this I like my body, I think feeling for a good few years. Years and years ago, I went to Alton Towers/Blackpool with a bunch of old college friends. The place we were staying in had a swimming pool and on the last day, we thought we would try it out. We changed and out of the four of us, I was the one with my arms crossed over my chest and stomach while the others didn't. And here's the thing: I was the skinniest one out of the four. So why did I react like this?

Now, I am not an expert in this. I'm not, but is it the world around this? Or is it all in my heads?

Sadly, I wonder if it's both. We're told from a very young age that if you don't look or behave a certain way, you are not pretty or handsome or good enough.

We see this in books, TV, magazines, films, fairy tales. And now, we have the internet and social media that give us a snapshot of the "perfect life". Which we all know can not be real... but we kinda want it to be?

This is a really weird and complex thing to talk about. Because every time I think I have a handle on it or understand it, something new always creeps up or I talk myself round in a circle.

In magazines, models are told to look a certain way and even when they do, they are photoshop. In TV shows and films, if the person looks hot, they are shirtless or wearing very little to remind us of this - how many times in Game of Thrones, Neighbours, Hollyoaks, or a Marvel movie (for example) have we see the "hot" actor shirtless? Am sure in nearly every Chris Hemsworth movie I own or watch, he either is shirtless or in a very tight top in the pouring rain at least once.

And on the internet (let's include social media in this as well), it's so easy to find pictures or video of good looking people. Porn is just a click away and most porn actors fit one of several looks to fit your fantasies. And the same with social media - I follow some people on social media who do fitness and I like following them. It was only in November (and then one every few weeks since then), when I liking their pictures that I go "Huh... am I follow you because I like you and your content, or am I following you because you're good-looking? Am I that shallow and vain?"

Maybe this is the wall I keep coming up again. This idea that we have become a vain society. I don't think we are vain, but are we, on some level, lusting after these ideals of what perfect is and, unless you have the time, money and will-power, we will never get it.

Also, you might have noticed I wrote and in my own head. Well, I kind of a pessimist. Am trying to get better at this, but I have doubts all the time. That I'm not good enough. Good enough son/brother/lover/uncle/friend/etc. And this pessimism creeps over into other things. That I'm not good looking enough, not smart enough, not book blogger enough. I always say at blogger events that I feel like I'm a fraud, waiting for someone to realise that I'm not meant to be there and will be exposed for the liar that I am.

Which made me wonder if this is how it works. A bit like a vicious circle. If we doubt ourselves, then do outside forces make us doubt ourselves and our worth more? Or does some outside force make itself known to us and then, because of this, we begin to doubt ourselves?

I know I have probably opened a huge can of worms and I can't answer them. But I wanted to get this off my chest and out of my system because, if I don't, it will just sit in my head and it will eat away at my brain (I started writing this at the end of December and keep editing it since then so you know it's one of those mental things that I won't stop thinking about). So... apologies for the rambling. And maybe now, I can look at this more and try to take this quote to heart (I love it and I agree with it, but me putting it into practice is a little harder...)

[Sorry for the bad language]

1 comment:

  1. I feel like outside forces latch on to the doubt that kind of lurks in the backs of our minds, and makes the doubt bigger.

    Over Christmas I unfollowed a tonne of people on Instagram. Most of them were bookstagrammers, not fitness people, but I realised I was following them hoping they'd follow me back, which they didn't, and their perfect-but-took-4-hours-and-their-captions-are-unrealistically-upbeat posts were making me feel bad about my unperfect posts. Then this week I unfollowed people on Twitter who were bumming me out with constantly negative posts that were either tearing down other people or asking for sympathy/help for their issues which really, really required professional help.

    So I think that there's a conversation to be had about social media and the pressure it makes us out on ourselves to be perfect/broadcast our innermost feelings and an almost separate conversation about body image, because body image struggles have existed since waaay before social media. And then another conversation about how social media is exacerbating all the shit we have to deal with about body image.