At some point or the other, some more often, some less, we all have looked at the mirror and exclaimed, "urrghhh, does that have to be me?" It comes to us very naturally. We don't think of us being overtly negative about ourselves - it is more like we hate the "ugly reality". :P
This very human characteristic, I am sure, has been for as long as human beings, and the sense of beauty and desirability, have existed. The social construct of what is the norm of accepted beauty may have been varying between sizes, the current one being set on 0; however across generations, at any given point in time, the majority people do feel they could do with looking better.
It is granted that the homo sapiens is a greedy species, always wanting more than they have. That's the way we are, so why not desire more "physical attractiveness' for one's self! And, very frankly speaking, I have never felt that my life has been severely and adversely affected because I have always hated my skin, loathed my hair, cried buckets because the skinny jeans won't just look good on me, found my fingers and nails too stubby, and even thought of myself as a midget :(. I crib, find consolation in other people's cribbing and move on with life. I think, plastic surgery would not fit my budget and the care and pain involved would be too much for me to bear. :D.
However, over the past few months I have been reading a lot about this whole concept of negative body image and how it is affecting youngsters today. I came across an NGO that works towards helping young girls perceive themselves and their bodies in a more positive way. Though most of the studies and papers I have read focus on America, I understand this seems to be a global phenomenon. Pre-teen girls are developing severe psychological disorders because they simply hate the way they look. The use of make up in kids as young as 5th and 6th graders, the use of push up bras by girls in junior school, the idolization of models and the size zero, the queue of young tots for hair straightening and pedicures and manicures - this whole new generation that is obsessed with the "physical", is , at the very least, frightful and disturbing.
I realize that this is different from the way our generation has grown up (and am not exactly a fossil yet - let's specify the generation as the 80's kids). Only in, say, end of high school or senior school, we realized the power of being slim. We barely could tell the difference between an eyeliner and a kohl pencil. The more "hep" ones among one would dye their hair a coffee color or wear some jazzy nail art. By college, ofcourse we all knew exactly where we were lacking, but somehow life didn't come to a standstill. We moped around and found other distractions.
It is difficult to draw a line as to how much of worrying is okay. But the kind of exposure the children seem to be getting these days, I wonder who can really help. The social pressure has never been so great. Unless you are a Photoshop expert, there's little you can do about the double chin, the flabby arms and acne marks in your 16th birthday bash photographs on FB. It's interesting how YouTube is teeming with instructional videos on photoshop makeovers. Here's one for you...
I wish our mirrors could come integrated with Photoshop technology so that we only saw our beautiful selves, always.
Apparently, more females are dissatisfied about how they look than their male counterparts, which is understandable, considering that is how the focus has been of our society. A man's beauty is never a cause of global concern. However, it would be interesting to note that over the years the number of boys and men fussing or being paranoid about their appearance has increased dramatically. Kids in school are worried about how their muscles are shaping up. I even came across protein supplements for preteen guys, at a local grocery store. Chubby is no longer cute. Boys in middle school want tucked in tummies and muscles and six packs. So much for the victory of gender equality but in what context!
I feel genuine concern and fear over where we all are headed in the decades to come, meanwhile, I have an important message for you. When you see school girls and boys - at stores, parking lots, beaches, family get-togethers, wherever, fretting or not - make it a point to throw a genuine compliment their way - Love your T shirt, Great hair, great skin, lovely eyes. Don't go overboard, though! But, a sincere remark from a stranger or person outside immediate family can do a lot to boost one's self image and confidence. We as a people need to be more consciously appreciative of those around us. That is the only way we can salvage some optimism! What do you think?
[Image source: Google Images]