Perspective is an amazing thing. It can help you rationalise, make better decisions based on new points-of-view and subsequently adopt better habits. Perspective is easier to achieve in certain situations than in others. For example, you can rationalize that just because you’ve had a bad day doesn't necessarily mean you’ll have a bad week, right?
Or one bad grade doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed the course.
Without perspective, I think we could all agree that our lives would be a series of pessimistic viewpoints.
One of the few times perspective is almost non-existent is when we are talking about body image. In a sea of unending messages about what your body should be; beach-ready, slim, proportionate, mark-free, finding a new point of view, especially one that contradicts these messages can be borderline impossible.
Be critical of imagery you see in the media, not yourself
In recent years one certain body type has remained the rigid standard for what a beautiful body should be; the slim-thick or hour-glass shape.
With this body image plastered everywhere we look, from clothing brands, to reality television (Yes, Miss Kim K I am talking about you) we are left with very little room to question; why is this the body type to aspire to?
Remember: most of the bodies we see on social media and for marketing purposes are airbrushed to “perfection” and done so to make us feel as though something needs to change. And conveniently, a million brands have millions of products and services that can help us quickly make those changes.
Research shows that when we limit or are more selective of media ideals, it is much easier to regulate our body image.
Take control of the narrative
The incessant narrative of the ideal body type makes it challenging to build new beliefs about what we find beautiful/attractive.
But understanding that body types and ideals are just a revolving door of unhealthy fads and trends pushed by general media, social media and society can help you see that there is, in fact, no such thing as an “ideal body”.
If we look at the ideal body types overtime, we can see how the “ideal” evolved according to those specific times. The ever-changing beauty standards of women’s body types is just another sign of the times, indicative of what was valued in those past societies.
From the 1920’s straight, tom-boyish silhouettes of flapper girls that was a rebellion on behavioural norms, to the 1950’s golden age of Hollywood where fuller, curvaceous frames were glorified signalling the recapturing of archetypal femininity.
But you don’t even need to look that far back to see the differences in what we once perceived to be the aspirational body to what we now see as the idealised standard.
Keeping up with these rotating trends can be exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically, and this is where perspective can relieve you of feeling like you need to keep up. As anatomist and author David Bainbridge states in his book, Curvology: The Origins and Power of the Female Shape.
“The body-ideal is in continual flux. We have already seen that females’ body-ideals vary between societies, and that they change over time within individual cultures. Over the years fashions change, as the media openly fuel the obsession with women’s bodies.”
One thing we can definitively say about the “perfect body type” is illusory, because whatever is fashionable now, probably won’t be in the coming months.
By keeping this knowledge at the forefront of your thoughts, you can gain control on your self-perception, allowing you to have better judgement about how you want to look, and more importantly, feel about the way you look when you see your body.
Be present in your thoughts.
I think it’s safe to say we’re all guilty of looking at our bodies and automatically going into a mental tirade of how nothing looks the way it should. Scanning your figure for flaws that don’t exist and then one by one, overanalysing how much better if certain things were slimmer, firmer, smoother.
Yes, I think we can all put a guilty hand in the air and say we’ve participated in subconscious attacks on our own bodies. And I say subconscious because once we’ve run down that list of things we hate about ourselves we put on our clothes and go about our day without stopping to question where all these thoughts come from.
More often than not, these thoughts are just a regurgitation of the Thin-Ideal mentality ingrained in the media we consume- from marketing imagery, to the fashion industry to television. We internalise a lot of these obvious and not-so-subtle messages to the point where we don’t even flinch at the harsh comments we throw at ourselves.
Being present in your thoughts is a good way to not only stop the negative self-talk, but also pinpoint the origin of these self-inflicted critiques
An effective way to stay present in your thoughts when you feel critical about your body is ask; would you say this to your mum, your sister, a friend? The answer is of course, no. So if you couldn’t imagine being so then why think these things about yourself?
See your body as a whole
Above we’ve mentioned how we tend to pick apart our body, highlighting “imperfections”.
Once you start being more conscious with your thoughts, how you perceive your body in these thoughts is the next thing to tackle.
Picking apart specific body parts is another way we lose perspective on how we view ourselves. From thighs being too big to hips being too wide; we don’t see our body as a whole, rather an assembly of parts that need improvement. Not good.
Once you see your body as a whole entity, you focus less on just how your body looks, but also consider other elements to your being that may need a little TLC.
This is commonly referred to as Holistic Health. Holistic Health is about providing care for all aspects of yourself- the physical, spiritual, mental and social.
Take the good days with the bad
You glimpse into the mirror and can’t find one positive thing to think about your body. Many factors can affect your body image from whether it’s that time of the month to how you feel your outfit looks.
Much like bad hair days, there are going to be moments when you aren’t feeling yourself, no matter how much perspective you have.
Psychologists highlight that categorising body image as either “positive” or “negative” is overly simplistic and doesn’t fully capture the relationships we have with our body perception.
For example, positive body image doesn’t necessarily refer to seeing your body as good or attractive, but having an appreciation for it and recognising its abilities whilst not letting how it looks limit them.
From this, it’s important to build your body image operating on this spectrum. For example, having an overall appreciation for your body and what it can do and how it looks but acknowledging and accepting that there may be things you don’t feel happy about.
The journey to achieving a healthier body image is a long and winding road and on this journey perspective can be the only thing that helps you stay the course.
Filtering your media consumption, being more conscious of negative thoughts or even just simply accepting the bad days where your self-esteem might not be as intact is all part of putting your body image into perspective.