As I scroll through my Instagram feed, a common theme seems to dominate the meme landscape: the “perfect summer body.” Whether the memes feature babies comparing their naturally round stomachs or Patrick from “Spongebob Squarepants” gorging himself on junk food, their captions revolve around the idea that the ideal summer body includes a slim figure. With celebrities and magazines promoting this image, it’s easy to forget that no body shape is superior over another. In fact, what society perceives as the “ideal figure” has evolved throughout history.
Up until the 1900s, the socially-perceived “perfect” female shape included a curvy, pear figure, according to a CNN article. While the exact figure shifted (for example, from overall curviness during ancient times to just certain areas with curves through the use of corsets from the late Renaissance to the twentieth century), the ideal body shape evolved with the times.
If you read the cover story of our most recent issue of the Patriot Post, you know we detailed what constitutes the “perfect” body according to today’s standards. In recap, the ideal female body consists of high cheekbones, clear skin without the use of makeup, an hourglass figure and hairless legs and armpits.
My point of bringing this up (besides a little history lesson and some self-promo) is to demonstrate how beauty standards evolve with the time. In the past, having a larger figure suggested higher fertility and beauty, whereas in modern times the ideal body fluxuates between curvy and slim. What this shift illustrates is that what is socially perceived as the “perfect body” is just that: a social perception and not a scientific fact.
During late May and June, many of us (myself included) joke around, saying how it’s time to get in shape for bathing suit season. From dieting (which, done improperly, can lead to serious health problems) to exercising (sometimes too much), many fall to the social perception that in order to look “good” during the summer, you have to have a certain body type.
While a nutritious diet and regular exercise contribute to a healthy lifestyle, these habits shouldn’t be spurred on by the desire to fit in with the social expectations promoted by celebrities (and magazines) who use digital editing to make themselves seem slimmer. Instead of trying to brainwash others into thinking in order to be seen as “pretty” one must be a certain body type, celebrities should use their platforms to promote a healthy body image.
The best example I have found of celebrities using their platform for just this includes model Ashley Graham. Instead of covering up her curves and cellulite, Graham flaunts what her mama gave her while also showcasing her workouts and healthy eating.
Yet, after liking a model’s picture, ads for shapewear and dieting pills pop up a day later on my Instagram feed. These conflicting posts demonstrate what’s wrong with society today, and what I’ve been reiterating: society expects people, girls especially, to look a certain way, and shuns those who don’t fit the mold.
Personally, I’ve succumbed to the social pressure that social media promotes. Often, before leaving the house, I’ll ask my mom if my outfit makes me look fat rather than feeling as confident as I did in the privacy of the dressing room.
In the past, I probably visited the beach a total of maybe three times in that many years, not feeling confident with my body. However, this summer I’ve been in a bathing-suit-requiring situation five times (give or take), slowly shaking the self-conscious mentality. I’m determined that, by the end of the summer, getting into a bathing suit won’t phase me, and the feeling of discomfort will ultimately dissipate.
As with most things, saying you’ll make the change, physical or psychological, is easier said than done. Here are some ways you can embrace your shape and promote body positivity:
- Find your unique style: With hundreds of stores available both with physical shops and online, there’s a style out there for everyone. Rather than following the current (and usually monotonous) fashion trend that often gears towards those with a slimmer body shape, find an outfit that compliments your body. While people look incredible no matter what they dress in, wearing certain outfits can boost your confidence. Check out this Stitch Fix article for body-type-specific dressing ideas.
- Maintain a healthy diet: A common problem associated with body image revolves around dieting, or the lack of it through anorexia or bulimia. Rather than limit yourself, follow a healthy diet and be sure to nourish your body.
- Digital detox: Social media is a breeding ground for insecurity. Although many body-positive influencers promote a realistic, healthy body image, multiple social-media users resort to photo-editing apps that make them appear slimmer. Take a break from social media, and clear your mind from the toxic, unrealistic images littering these sites.
- Don’t compare yourself with others: Many times, we find ourselves comparing ourselves with others. These thoughts just promote a toxic behavior and mentality. Whether you’re unintentionally body shaming yourself or someone else, these negative thoughts should be kicked out for good.
While body image continues to be a hot topic in today’s evolving society, hopefully, the social perception becomes more accepting and less scornful of those with different body types. In the end, as perfectly said in the book “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy, a bikini body is just that: a body in a bikini.