Art by Peau Porotesano
When women come to me for advice, as I currently serve as a resident adviser in Lausanne, I often listen to concerns pertaining to body image: gaining weight, eating too much Cailler chocolate or fondue or the like, feeling guilty for indulging in certain kinds of foods, being concerned about fitting in particular pieces of clothing and the list continues. These women are so hard on themselves. Hearing such destructive thinking truly breaks my heart — as I always and will forever see such beautiful and strong women sitting before me.
Staying healthy and fit abroad can be very challenging; it is hard to find and eat the same foods to which you are accustomed, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Truly, I understand. I miss SunLife and the fresh coconut water and strawberries sold on the side of PCH. In Switzerland, we mostly eat bread with butter, potatoes and pasta — not the healthiest of options to be eating in abundance. Super fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find, and when they are, they tend to be quite expensive. Thus, because one feels the need to maintain his or her “ideal figure,” one resorts to eating too little or too much and then feels guilty and ashamed.
I am not without fault; I too allow the mind inside of me to tell me that I am not enough. I remember being a young teenager and watching shows such as “America’s Next Top Model” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and reading magazines like Bazaar and Vogue. Do not get me wrong — I loved and still love these shows and the latest editions of my favorite fashion magazines. However, in watching these shows and reading these magazines, I often felt insecure and inadequate in comparison to the depictions and images of women in the media —women who are photoshopped at every angle.
But that is just it — the root of my insecurity: comparison. If there was no “ideal” to which I could compare myself, I would not have these feelings of inadequacy. Coming to this realization has made a world of a difference, as we are all unique in our own individual ways.
Nonetheless, media and the fashion industry have tried to convince us that this manic cycle of attaining this unattainable body or image is our end goal — the sole thing for which we should earnestly seek after in this lifetime. This is the mentality that is being spread to our generation — to young girls and strong women alike — including the beautiful, intelligent, striking women who sit before me. The root of body image insecurity “begins with optics,” according to a New York Times article titled “Instagram Has Become a Body-Image Battleground” written by Vanessa Friedman and published in Oct. 13, 2015. We live in a society driven by optics; in particular, Instagram has become one of the main optic platforms. I have noticed that living and studying abroad has both encouraged and discouraged both men and women from using Instagram to depict abroad adventures. Though the background of these abroad Instagram pictures are stunning, I have seen firsthand the retouching and re-cropping of many images to reach “perfection.”
To all the women and men who are struggling with this issue — myself included and everyone in the Lausanne house — I have one question for you: Where are you placing your worth? Time and time again, I have found that I have been led astray by the industries that have tried to convince me that my worth is found in my body image. I never find fulfillment or true identity in the things or places where they try to convince me that my worth is found.
Though these industries are never going to completely revolutionize this distorted thinking, you can. There is such a thing as true beauty. To all the women who literally sit before me and those who sit behind a screen reading this post, know that you are beautiful. I put up a poster in my room in Lausanne that simply says “LOVE” to constantly remind myself to do this: to love myself.
In a review of a Dove campaign by Emma Gray of The Huffington Post in April of 2013, women were asked to describe their image to an FBI forensic artist named Gil Zamora. After these women described there image to him, Zamora sketched an image of each woman. Then, Zamora asked a different set of women to describe the same women that Zamora had already sketched. The difference between the images that the individual women believed their images to look like and the way a complete stranger described their images were astounding. The results showed that the women who described their own appearances completely focused on their insecurities or “bad” facial qualities; the women who were asked to describe complete strangers focused on the beautiful facial aspects of these women. The results from this campaign show that women “see themselves less accurately than strangers do.”
Each individual is more beautiful or handsome than she or he believes. This is the mentality that humankind needs to embrace. Do not let the media or magazines influence your life of happiness. Spread love and encourage your neighbors to hold themselves to this standard — and, then, maybe one day, we all will find identity where it truly belongs.
Follow the Pepperdine Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic