The Body Obsession
Appearance. A sensitive subject for many of us. When asked for our honest opinion of ourselves, few would give completely positive feedback. Why is this?
The Western world places so much value on our appearance. You have easy access to advice on how to lose weight fast, how to get a toned physique, how to dress to hide your ghastly lumps and bumps. You are constantly bombarded with images of perfect, flawless men and women on the cover of magazines and on posters.
And now, thanks to advances in the medical field, you too can get a perfect face and body, without the effort of dieting for only a few thousand pounds. You can have surgery to alter just about every part of your body, ranging from tummy tucks to toe shortening. But this obsession is very harmful. People wanting to make it into the modelling industry feel pressure to lose weight so they develop anorexia nervosa, a harmful mental disorder that causes the sufferer to stop eating. But this pressure is felt by almost every person in the western world to varying degrees. Perhaps most worryingly of all, teenagers.
Teenagers, particularly female, struggle to ignore the constant pressure to look a certain way. In fact, a shocking 1-3% of young females are thought to suffer from bulimia nervosa in the UK. This is another harmful mental disorder where the sufferer binge eats and then purges to remove the food that they just consumed from their bodies.
People of the Western world are strangled by the need to look beautiful. But where is the relief? Yes there are help lines and advice websites to help you with the affects of this unhealthy obsession, but the fact remains, we strive for perfection, the impossible goal. In a world where people are denied the basic necessities to live and die needlessly, is it incredibly wrong to put so much focus on, and resources into, our appearance? Most of us would say, well, yes, it is very wrong to pay for unnecessary surgery to alter your appearance when millions of people are quite literally starving to death.
Then why do we do it? If it’s so harmful, why can’t we just accept who we are and our ‘flaws’? The key is in the word acceptance. Is it our natural human response to find fault, not to celebrate what we are? Maybe. But maybe the reason is because the media scrutinizes every aspect of celebrities lives, so we are pressured to do the same. Am I too fat? Are my ears too big? Is my nose wonky?
But maybe it’s something more, maybe it’s that we are told in our daily lives to assess ourselves. Not just in the media, but at work and school. Constantly thinking of what can be improved in our academic performance. And at home you can be criticised by family members and by friends. So then our response is, if I am scrutinising myself on an academic level and on a personal level, then I should be scrutinising my appearance as well. Without accepting who we are, we can’t accept our appearance.
But personal acceptance cannot be achieved easily, it’s a long process, but an even longer one for a whole society to change its mindset. Maybe it’s inaccessible, completely unachievable; maybe it’s so ingrained in our society that it will never change. Maybe repeatedly telling someone that they are beautiful as they are doesn’t actually work. Maybe it’s only the individual that can personally accept themselves. But, if society changed, then it would come naturally to accept ourselves. We wouldn’t doubt that we were beautiful. As soon as we accept each other and ourselves as people, then we can accept what we see in the mirror.