Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Beauty And The Beast: Girls and Body Image In 2016

Once upon a time there was a young woman who was living in the generation of social media. She spent her days scrolling through endless social media apps, laughing at memes, texting her friends, editing and uploading photos, and keeping up with her favourite celebrities.  While this was a great thing for the woman as everything was so accessible, there were also many downsides to seeing every part of peoples lives through a screen 24/7. No, this woman wasn't me, but I spoke to this beautiful, bubbly young woman for quite some time before realising how many insecurities she was masking behind this social butterfly exterior. She showed me things that were completely unnoticeable to me, totally invisible as she tried to pass her mindset onto me about all the things the media make out to be positive that were having such a negative effect on her own thoughts - this included girls she wished she looked like, photos of herself she didn't like and complained about the size of her waist and shape of her nose. It has come to my attention that we are all guilty of this, while life isn't really a fairytale, we do only post the things we want people to see. Even though this girl wasn't me, at 20 years of age I often see the downsides of body image taking their toll on women, myself included. Is social media who we really are all the time? Of course not! Take one scroll through my Instagram and you won't find a picture of the stretch marks on my thighs, read through my tweets and you won't actually know how I've been feeling on the inside all week, look through my profile pictures on Facebook and try to realise that I don't actually walk around covered in filters or 'likes.'

What many people don't see is that social media is not real life and perhaps this is due to a lack of education and too much dependence on it. I firmly believe that for the youth of today the perception of beauty is getting worse and worse as time goes on. How do we explain to the young females in our lives about this? How can we make them realise that their lumps and bumps, or lack of, are completely normal? How will the future be affected if the self-esteem of the future is already in tatters? So many girls look up to others and see their perfect lives which they then compare to their own. As a blogger and family member, I'm sure I even have girls who look up to me. They probably see my outfits, my pictures with friends, everything I write and think 'Wow, she has a great life' but what they don't realise is that I probably had a pair of spanx on under that bodycon dress, lots of filters on the photo, I probably wasn't happy to be around all the company I had that night and possibly wanted to go home because like every other normal girl I could have been close to keeling over with period pains.

All I want to say is that I am in no way perfect, because nobody is. I have stretch marks on my thighs, I have been self conscious about my jiggly belly and the hair on my arms for as long as I can remember, I am recently beginning to suffer with breakouts on my chest and back again, I've always thought I have a very flat bum and I'm pretty sure my boobs aren't even the same size. However, take one look at my social media photos and you won't see any of that - why? Because my social media photos ARE NOT real. Underneath my clothes my body isn't showing any filter and parts aren't blurred out, the fake tan lines have to stop somewhere and no material is sucking in my wobbly bits anymore. I am not really who I am on social media - I'm not saying I'm a Catfish or Superhero, I just mean I portray the parts of me that I want people to see. We show the things we want people to see on social media, it is supposed to be a happy place where we can be whoever we want to be, which is why we don't bring our body hair description or dress size into our social media bios.

Even in terms of friendships, relationships and other parts of life, it isn't all picture perfect. Just because someone appears to have loads of friends on Facebook, doesn't mean they actually do. There is a huge difference between being able to depend on someone to like your photo and being able to depend on them outside of the screen when real life gets tough. That girl with hundreds of likes who you think is so popular is probably eagerly waiting for one particular person to like it, and even if he does like it, what good is that to build a relationship if he never shows himself in the flesh? Just because a man gives you all the attention in the world on your Instagram account, he doesn't know the real you - he doesn't know your favourite colour, the way you talk in your sleep, or the way you like your tea.

The beauty of the real world is that it will attract all the things that are meant to be. People can fall in love with who you actually are and all the little things that make you who you are - whether it's your over the top laugh or the mole you always try to hide. Do you really believe that all the hundreds of celebrities in the world managed to banish all cellulite from their curves? Are you telling me they all wear a DD bra? Of course not, they just show us something and the whole world follows. For example, a Kardashian sister could walk out of the house with a chest of drawers on her head and all of a sudden the media will tell us that this is the latest fashion trend we need to be following. A few days and Instagram selfies later and our timelines would be full of fashion furniture. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first person to read up on the latest trends and keep up with the world of celebs, but that doesn't mean it's everything, and it definitely doesn't mean it's all real. Yes we love celebrities, and yes, most of us follow them because that is human nature, but it doesn't mean it's a really healthy habit.

My life isn't perfect and neither is my body. I once cried to my mum about receiving anonymous criticism about my appearance and I once spent a night standing naked in front of a mirror over-analysing every part of my body and swearing I wouldn't eat another bar of chocolate for at least a month when a guy asked me 'Why don't you look like that?' while showing me a picture of another girl on Instagram. A few years later I realise I don't look like that because, well, I just don't. I'm not her, I'm me. When someone knocks you down about your appearance you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and knock them straight off your list of people that are priorities. My girlfriends all know what my naked body looks like and the men that have seen or will get to see it will hopefully be educated enough to understand and appreciate its worth and beauty hidden in all the imperfections.

All the girls facing the pressures of the ever changing world around them need to take a step back and breathe. Just because you don't look like her, or have her legs, her stomach, her nose, her friends, it doesn't mean you aren't amazing. Another woman's beauty doesn't mean your own disappears. You don't know how many people you are a role model to, you don't know how many people envy all the features about yourself that you see as flaws, and you aren't the only girl in the world who untags photos of herself that she doesn't like even though you really don't need to.

Girls, the world of technology is absolutely incredible today - we can talk to people across the other side of the world on a screen or by phone, we can see what everyone is doing all the time and we can capture moments in time... so what makes you think celebrities can't slightly edit photos to suck in or enlarge parts of their bodies? Enjoy it all you like, but don't compare what you see in the media or online to yourself. Let's look at me for a moment - I may have a blog, I may have nice clothes, I may talk too much about friends and relationships, but I can assure you I always do a little dance to get my skinny jeans on, open my button after munching on too much pizza, am naturally the colour of Casper, fall down in public way too often to count, have my fair share of enemies and absolutely no trace of a boyfriend! That doesn't make me sad though, if you see those things as flaws then you don't deserve the million and one more things that make me beautiful. We are the everyday women, the majority of us don't have millions of euro in our bank account, overflowing designer wardrobes, a hair and makeup team on call 24/7 or people to control all of our social media and photo editing.

From petite to plus-size, body hair, birthmarks, stretchmarks and everything in between. I know it's all been said before, but screw society's idea of beauty. I mean, what is beauty anyway? Who decides what makes the cut? Looking like a Disney Princess is all well and good as long as you don't actually have the heart of one of the infamous villains. If you can't appreciate other people's beauty then it might be time to do some working out or detoxing of your personality. Without your body you would have nothing, so give it the TLC to do the things in life that really matter. Your body is a temple, don't let it be brought down by hurricanes of people or an earthquake inside yourself. If this has already happened, then start building and repair the damage - Brick by brick, with stronger foundations, a damn good attitude, a smile to kill and a touch of girl power!

Yes, she is beautiful. Yes, so are you.





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