Are you happy with your body?

By Danielle Ringgit
@danitbpseeds

 

“I’m too fat.”

“I’m too skinny.”

“I’m too short.”

“I’m too tall.”

 

DO ANY of these sound familiar to you?

 

Historically, women have been followers, trendsetters and victims of the ever-changing female standard of beauty. In the 1600s, full figured women were considered beautiful and healthy as it was often linked to their ability to bear children. In the 1990s, being thin, having gaunt and boyish looks became stylish.

 

According to Triumph Shape Sensation Research released in 2010, only one in five women in the world is content with their body shape.

 

When I first started working on this article about how women here in Sarawak may be affected by body image issues, I asked a lot of my female friends about how comfortable they were with their bodies and noticed that they were quite reluctant to answer my questions.

 

Most of them refused to answer questions about their least favourite body part, and this question: ‘On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are you with your body?’

 

Were my questions too direct?

 

Speaking on body issues, I myself have a fair share in this matter. When I was younger, I was always dissatisfied with my appearance: I did not like my hair, it was frizzy and I wished it was straight like all the other girls’ in my class. I always had this notion that straight hair was beautiful and envied all the girls out there with long straight hair looking like they just came out of a shampoo commercial.

 

Unlike most girls that age where the majority of them were slim and delicate, I stood out because of my weight. My parents never commented on my size and honestly, they preferred their children eating and being healthy rather than focusing too much on how they looked to society. But back then, why did I feel so dissatisfied with myself?

 

Handling body image issues

 

Body image issues arise when we feel we are unable to meet the standards set in a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals. This leads to how we perceive our bodies and influences how attractive we feel we are to ourselves and to others.

 

So, what influences one’s perceptions on their body image? Here we asked the opinion of some women on what they thought played a major influence in how body image is influenced and instead of focusing on the least favourite part of their bodies, we asked them which part of their bodies they liked best.  

 

Melissa Nuah

Melissa Nuah, 22, student

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

Mainstream media: Publications, billboards, big screen, small screen, mainstream music, social media… you name it. I read an article recently entitled ’10 Pleasures and Pains of Being Beautiful’. The writer, Jeremy Dean, began it with these words, “Beautiful people are all around us: on billboards, on TV and at the movies—some of them even inhabit our everyday lives.”

And with that, beauty is a standard defined by billboards, TV, and movies. Mainstream media implies desirability and acceptance in the body images that they constantly expose us to. And people are attracted to the idea of being desirable and accepted.

There is no greater motivation for humanity than the sense of belonging — except sense of survival, but even then, belongingness increases one’s chance of survival (that’s why when you get scared by a dog, you run towards another person nearest to you). I can go on and on about the psychological mechanism of it all but the summary is this: In my opinion, no matter what your belief is, no matter what your values are, and no matter how great your support system can be… at one point (or at all point), the media does a thing or two to your head. Or in this case, to your body.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

My ‘sepet’ eyes (it gives a physical definition to the Malaysian in me), thigh, fingernails (I have handsome nails — I kid you not).


Joanna Jacqueline Ekot

 Joanna Jacqueline Ekot, 30, culinary lecturer

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

Probably peer pressure, especially among girlfriend groups. When they hang out together, they will usually talk about image and boys. This, of course puts pressure on girls who feel left out because she is different from her other girlfriends. And then there is also the media. Since everyone has a smartphone or iPad, it’s easier to search for the latest fashion or image

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

Emm…my tiny and delicate hands which are quite skillful in cooking, my ‘invisible’ dimple which can only be seen by certain people and my ‘sensitive’ and quite fair skin.

 

Christy Gordon Kucheng

Christy Gordon Kucheng, 24, executive residence operations

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

I think it’s mostly people surrounding us that provide the perception on our own body image. Because in general, people often think of what others think of themselves. That would often influence the way they act around other people and the way they carry themselves socially which includes body image.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

Three parts of body I like are my butt, my shoulder, and my boobies.

 

Julie Musa

Julie Musa, 19, Student

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

In my opinion, the body issues among girls usually arise when they keep on competing and comparing themselves to each other and everyone else. 

 

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

My eyes, eye lashes and nails.

 

Siu Yen Pin

Siu Yen Pin, 25, student

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

Well, a lot of reasons. First, there is the media; we usually idolise who or what we see on TV and that slowly influences us to be like them (from what they look like and what they wear). Then, even if it’s not because of the media, there is also family and peer pressure.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

Haha…being healthy and slim and I like my height!

Foo Su Chern

Foo Su Chern, 25, student

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

Advertisements and stereotyping. That one can’t help but think that they need to be the best image people expect them to be; that being fat or big is not acceptable or the norm and if they are, they are outcast.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

My legs, height and hands. I have no qualms over what I have and what I don’t have.

 

Dona Stanley

Dona Stanley, 27, technical assistant

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

I think that would be because of the scarcity of bigger clothing sizes available in stores. In Asian countries, Asian women are usually small, slim and slender and only a handful are plus-sized. And so, this pressures plus-sized women to become smaller. Usually when girls are in a group, they need to feel accepted by their friends and also feel the need to look similar by having cool style and image.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

My smile, hair and hands.

 

Mia Sachez

Mia Saches, 34, assistant environmental health officer

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

Definitely the media, especially the magazines. These days, photos of celebrities are photoshopped and edited to make them look prettier and perfect thus influencing a lot of people to look like them.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

Nose, lips and eyes. I don’t mention my eyes not only because I like them but also it is one of the most important parts of our body. As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul.

 

Gracie

Grace Connie Ujang, 25, environmental analyst

What do you think mostly influences our perception of body image?

In my opinion, the media plays a major role in influencing our perception on our own body image. By using TV and magazines, the media often publicises celebrities on how perfect they look and therefore unconsciously encourages society to look like them.

Name 3 parts of your body that you like.

My eyes, lip and hands.

 

Instead of focusing too much on what others may think of our appearances, we should instead change our own self-perception and stop trying to mimic what we see on TV and magazines.

 

What we see on TV and magazines are not 100% authentic depictions and are actually the result of hours of prepping, lighting, strategic camera angles, slimming undergarments and airbrushing before they reach the magazine stand or your television screen.

 

In 2002, Jamie Lee Curtis posed for a magazine in ‘before’ and ‘glammed up’ pictures to create awareness of how the media image can be altered in real life and digitally.

 

Another good example of creating awareness about photoshopped images was Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ empowerment campaign in 2004 which has been taking a stand against digitally altered images for almost 10 years.

 

In 2005, the campaign featured six women of all shapes and sizes to diminish the perception that only thin is beautiful.

 

A fashion blog called ‘Girls With Curves’ founded and run by Tanesha Awasth features her love of clothes and herself as the model,  promoting positive body-image, self-esteem and body-acceptance in the ‘curvy’ community.

 

Perhaps young girls can take note of this teenager’s courageous act: In April 2012,  a then 14-year-old Julia Bluhm from Maine, USA got so fed up of the digitally altered images in Seventeen magazine that she set up a petition on Change.org called ‘Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images of Real Girls’.

 

She interviewed teens at her school and collected 84,000 signatures from around the world. After submitting the petition to the executive editor of the magazine, the magazine stated in their August 2012 issue a body peace treaty that they would never digitally alter a girl’s body or face again.

 

So, isn’t it better to just embrace our looks and appreciate ourselves just the way we are?

 

 

 

 

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