Body image and self-worth

Sorcha writes about our attitude to body image and its impact

Written by Sorcha Ní Chroidheáin


Growing up as a young girl, there was a lot of pressure to conform to society’s norms. I was told that I should be wearing makeup to hide my spots and what would make my eyes look prettier. I was told what clothes I should be wearing and that I was so lucky because of my weight and that I didn’t understand what being self-conscious was because I was thin (yes, because joking about me being ‘anorexic’ totally wouldn’t make me feel self-conscious).

From a young age, we are taught to be self-conscious about our appearance and our weight. Yes, the media is partly at fault for that, but what about our own society? If someone asked you today, “Do you find yourself attractive?” What would your answer be? I learned that if you answer with a yes, especially in front of your friends, you’re likely to be seen as cocky and unlikeable and you’ll probably be met with some form of ‘You’re not that great looking’.

Confidence is seen as a negative thing nowadays and being happy with who you are is apparently not socially acceptable anymore. If you compliment your friend, they’re more likely to disagree with you than to agree, because not believing that you could be seen as anything other than ugly is a good thing.

We, as humans, tend to value ourselves on how others see us. For some reason, other people’s opinions on our bodies matter more than our own, even though every single person on this planet has a different idea of what is considered attractive. Therefore, depending on other people to tell us that we’re beautiful is kind of pointless, because you can’t please everyone, no matter how hard you try.

The media is not innocent at all, however. One of the only female Disney characters with a realistic body type is Moana (also the only Disney movie where there was no love interest or any talk of romance at all). What the media does not tell us is that being excessively underweight is just as bad as being excessively overweight. The word ‘fat’ is now seen as an insult, but it’s just as much of an insult as ‘skinny’ (the official definition for the word skinny is unattractively thin and last time I checked ‘unattractive’ was not a compliment). The only thing anyone should be aiming to be is healthy.

It isn’t just women or girls who are victims to the media’s view on what is ‘attractive’. Men and boys tend to get forgotten about when talking about positive body image when it affects them just as much. The men you see in advertisements are all tall and lean, cisgender, able-bodied and usually white with just the right amount of muscle, and the thing about these people in advertisements and on TV is that it is literally their job to look the way they do.

The majority of people would rather date a tall guy than a short guy, which isn’t their fault as they’re entitled to a preference, but it does mean that shorter men grow conscious of what they can’t change.

That’s just it though. We’re all self-conscious about things we know we can’t change and things we think we should be able to change. Everybody has got flaws and we expect to look like people who are paid to look the way they do. We shouldn’t have to depend on other people’s opinions on what we look like, because it doesn’t matter how many people tell you that you’re attractive, you won’t believe it until you start telling yourself that. Positive self-talk is so important as compliments won’t mean anything to you unless you believe them.

So, in conclusion, be your own ‘type’. Ignore everyone else in the world for a moment, don’t compare yourself to anyone else and just think about the different things that make you attractive. Everyone is, in their own way. I know that sounds cheesy, but I’ve never met someone that I considered ‘ugly’. I don’t think I ever will.

If you struggle with an eating disorder or suspect someone else you know might be, please contact Bodywhys

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