Do not read beauty magazines; they will only make you feel ugly.The Sunscreen Song | Baz Luhrmann
Not just beauty magazines, but social media, ads, movies, all are notorious for glorifying beauty in a particular way. But will the growth of the body positive movement in the beauty and wellness space give us more confidence when it comes to our appearance?
The Body Positivity Movement
Body positivity refers to a mental state of feeling good about how you look, regardless of what society glorifies as the ideal type. More than a personal act of self-care, brands have also embraced this concept.
Attempts to incorporate body positivity include brands employing more diverse models, or being vigilant about advertisements and partnerships. Image-driven apps like Pinterest prohibits all ads with weight loss language and imagery. These include products that claim weight loss results or referencing BMI (body mass index).
Does Body Positivity Make Us Feel Better About Our Bodies?
A study published in New Media and Society, shows that “brief exposure to body positive content improves mood, body satisfaction, and appreciation”. This is relative to people who saw content that focused on thin-ideal or just neutral content.
But here’s the catch: exposure to body positive content puts us in an appearance-centered mindset. In the same study, researchers asked the participants to write statements about themselves after being shown body positive images. Participants still focused on appearance, rather than skills or personality to describe themselves.
Can we really get a way from focusing on looks, when our medium of communication relies heavily on visuals?
The Olympics and Body Positivity
Simone Biles, Tamyra Mensah Stock, Lee Kiefer, Katie Ledecky, Alison Felix, Sydney McLaughlin, Jordan Thompson, all Olympic gold medalists. They all look different, all in top shape, showed mental strength, and all with impressive abilities. Biles, a gymnast, stands at 4 feet 8 inches, and Thomson, a volleyball player, at 6 feet 4 inches.
Seeing the athletes move and do what they do, whether watching them compete or train, took some of the focus away from the body and the way it looks, but on what it can do. We see them react to setbacks and get back up again.
As social media transitions to more video content, I wonder if this will somehow make us connect healthy and good looking with capabilities, rather than someone’s waistline.
We will always come across content that glorifies weight loss. Aside form images, it can be in the form headlines and captions celebrating thigh gaps or shredded abs. I believe that focusing more on abilities and skills, will provide us with a deeper definition of beauty. And hopefully one more inspiring and less confidence-crushing.