It’s time to embrace who we are

As we start National mental health awareness week, I couldn’t be more grateful that the focus will be on body image. Finally, it feels we can shine a light on an area that has rarely received the scrutiny it deserves. For both men and women, the issue of “body shaming” and the constant pressure on the way we look has only risen with the increased popularity of reality TV shows, the film and TV industry and social media.

Whilst there should always be a focus on health and wellbeing, I think it’s right to make the clear distinction between loosing weight and trying to reach unachievable goals. For example, seeing abs or muscles and wanting to aspire to them is not something that should be condemned. But, when we talk about facial reconstruction, body implants and all other surgeries, we are also talking about being ashamed of the women we are and we were born to be.

Images of size zero model pictured on magazines, billboards and social media showcasing it as “the norm” has changed our perception of what it takes to me beautiful, and to be comfortable in our own skin. The fashion industry which uses these models to promote their latest clothing lines, again not considering the message it’s sending out. Then you’ve got the impact this must have on the models themselves and how they maintain their figures.

I was pleased to see recently that a clothing range “in the style” explained they had become aware of the impact of them airbrushing and editing images of their models was having on their audience. They then announced that going forward all pictures uploaded to their website and social media pages will be un edited and not airbrushed. The brand said “We will not be smoothing out any lines, wrinkles, lumps or bumps to sell you something that is just not real. Those stretch marks, moles, love handles, scars or cellulite should be celebrated in all their glory and thats exactly what we are going to do.”

For young girls especially, we have heard horrible stories of bullying and harassment linked with instagram and the constant competing. The new smart phone apps where you can now change your body shape, your hair colour and hide spots on the surface look harmless, but when you scratch the surface, what message are we sending to others?

We all have a right to celebrate the way we look and of course if that means making changes to our appearance then as individuals we can, but it’s the judgement that comes with it. Are we really living in a society now where we experience two different realities? Where we have our personal selves and then our online, social media selves? I worry where this will lead us and certainly the generations of tomorrow. Us women come in all shapes and sizes, as do men and if we spent more time supporting and embracing our uniqueness and our individuality then we would leave behind a much better message to the next generation.

In most cases, we maybe check the phone before bed and scroll through social media looking at others, then we look at ourselves and become our own worst enemies. Over thinking and over critical about ourselves, leading to, in many cases anxiety and depression. Like we are never good enough. It’s time we challenge these misconceptions. Start living in the skin we’re in and know that we are much more than what we are told to be. We are human, we are beautiful.