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But First, Self-Love: Appreciating Your Body

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In recent years, “self-love” appears to have been a recurrent topic in certain conversations. The term “self-love”, as the words do suggest, refers to the adequate amount of admiration, respect, appreciation and care directed towards an individual’s physical and mental selves. Self-love is easily confused with narcissism, a personality disorder rooted from exaggerated self-importance and obsession with one’s self. Self-love, however, does not equate with narcissism; where narcissism stands for establishing oneself over the rest, self-love enables one to grow within oneself, to improve oneself in order to radiate with positive energy and inspire the rest of the world.

Self-love is constantly being emphasized and encouraged in the present than it used to be in the early and the mid-2000s, or before. At the same time, centennials have designated themselves as the “depressed generation”; a “sad generation with happy pictures.” Outwardly, centennials do not have reasons, in general, to be depressed about—unlike the boomer and X generations, centennials do not have a world war to fight, they exist in the golden age of comfort and technology. However, centennials have actually been exposed to plenty of pressure that is internal rather than its opposite. The golden age of technology, while being necessarily positive, has its own dark side, one that hinders individuals’ appreciation of life and interest in themselves. This in turn becomes the source of heightened levels of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal motivations, which is why self-love needs to be practiced and cultivated among young people as much as possible.

Self-love and body positivity go hand in hand, the latter being the first step to self-love. Healing begins in the mind, filters into the soul, then show its signs on the body and vice versa. Therefore, at the imparting of love for the self, one becomes satisfied with oneself, and one begins appreciating one’s body for how it is, “flawed” as it may be. Once one develops a positive attitude towards their body, it, in turn, benefits the mind and the soul.

Self-love and body positivity is easy, given that if there is a will, there is a way. Numerous obstacles stand in their way, but the process of achieving this goal can be narrowed down to a few simple steps.

Ignore the Standards of Beauty

Beauty standards can simply be referred to as unofficial rules implemented on a person’s appearance by the society. These have existed since the primordial ages and have changed from time to time. Country-wise there are different standards of beauty. In the US, the ideal image of a woman’s body used to be “plump” back in the 50s. This altered into skinny, adolescent-type bodies in the 1960s, and by the 2020s, the ideal female body image has become a Barbie-doll-like 90-60-90 structure, including a slim face, high cheekbones, big eyes, full lips and clear skin. A man in the 2020s would look “perfect” upon owning a V-shaped body complete with biceps, shoulders, pectoral muscles and a height of six feet. Beauty standards in Sri Lanka and India are quite similar to each other. Fair skin and long, black hair would be essential in order to reach the standards of beauty, along with a buxom body and a round face.

Beauty standards can be outright dangerous. They have left countless young people with eating disorders, anxiety and even death in their wake. They are also literally used in advertising plastic surgeries and unnecessary skincare products (skin-lightening cream) that can bring deadly side effects and consequences, and are therefore best left ignored. Having a dark skin tone, a plus-sized body and short hair does not categorize one as “ugly” or “imperfect”, not to mention such categories should not exist in the first place. A body is a body, all bodies are beautiful, and the more they vary in shape and appearance, the more they contribute to the diversity of the world.

Stay Away from Toxic Social Media Content

Social media can be the face of beauty standards in the modern society. 95 million posts are shared per day on Instagram alone, and it would not come off as a shock that a large portion of this sum includes images of people that have artificially incorporated beauty standards onto their physiques. Teenagers comprise more than a quarter of the users of social media, and unfortunately, little do they realize that 90% of the content they view and fill their heads with are illusions. The “perfect” people they see and admire on social media, such as some celebrities and influencers, either have professionals Photoshop their pictures before they are posted, and/or have splurged on plastic surgeries, and/or have paid stylists that make them appear how they are.

Social media is home to content that denounces body positivity, directly as well as indirectly. It is important that such content be taken down or ignored as a whole, as they can harm a certain person in ways one would never know.

Keep Good Content Close

While it is unfortunate that a vast area of social media platforms is grey, good, inspirational content is not difficult to find. There are motivational accounts that uphold the concepts of body positivity and self-love viz; @impact, @80slolita, @wetheurban and more selfcare accounts (Instagram).

Find Comfort in Your Clothes

As of 2021, clothes are not restricted to gender, neither do they not cater to all sizes. A garment is three things: an armor, an accessory and a place to be satisfied with oneself. Brands that target specific markets viz; the petite community, the plus-sized community, have emerged and are constantly emerging. During the process of buying, individuals need to keep in mind that what they buy is what they want to buy, not what they should.

Give Credit to Your Body

One’s body is not solely an external shell that needs to be groomed and kept pleasant. The human body is a machine, in addition to being the most advanced of them. It acts in service to one’s existence, breathing for them, fighting diseases, absorbing nutrition, securing babies for them, pumping blood for them. The body, despite being “flawed” does so many things right, which is why it deserves more appreciation than it happens to get.

Don’t Punish Yourself

Succumbing to society’s standards of beauty influences one to go to lengths in achieving “the perfect body”, obsessively indulging in frustrating diets, steroids, fasting and exhausting exercises which, for the most part, ends in disappointment. People practically punish themselves to attain a particular outward appearance. Exercising and choosing certain food over others to be healthy is a different story, and it does not have to involve extreme cardio or related exercises. A 30-minute walk a day has been associated with burning more than 300 calories in a person, and an occasional intake of sugar and fat will not drive one to a heart attack. Exercise should be done because it is fun, not because it may alter one’s appearance to match society’s claims.

As mentioned above, self-love and body positivity are not difficult to achieve and are worth giving a shot. Because, as the cliché goes, beauty comes from within, and internal beauty begins with love for the self.

By Rebecca Mischelle

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