Body Image may not seem like a business principal, but so in many ways it is.
Studies show that people (specifically young women) often opt out of many activities and opportunities when they don’t feel confident about their appearance, and the largest offender; body image. A preoccupation concerning weight and appearance can keep a person’s mind away from creating new ideas, or excelling in their industry. When individuals don’t feel happy or satisfied with their appearance, it can quite literally hold them back from life.
Self- esteem issues certainly aren’t limited to women alone, however numerous studies, publications, (and probably a poll of your own friends) reveal women have arguably more pressure than men to look a certain way. To add insult to injury, less than 5% of the female population is even capable of achieving the current media ideal of thinness.
Add this to a culture that has come to blatantly worship appearance, and you’ve got a perfect storm:
To make matters worse, we seem to have a severely incorrect and misplaced worship for thinness in particular:
Educating ourselves about what “healthy” really is can be a huge benefit; albeit we may find it increasingly harder each year. The health/diet industry rakes in an estimated $20-40 billion a year, preying on our programed desires to look like someone we will likely never resemble. Sifting through piles of propaganda, we may be able to find a shred of truth:
With all this info, it’s no wonder to find that women are very likely to have a preoccupation with their bodies, and tend to say “no” to opportunities in life and business far more often than they need to. Coached through our youngest years of it’s importance, the fear of not being physically appealing enough is a formidable adversary.
However, through a bit of education, a lot of open communication, and some good old fashioned revolution, we can change the way we live, and what legacy we pass on to future generations. Keeping a few things in mind may go a long way:
Know that your body is an instrument, not an ornament.
Your body has the same purposes as anybody- to allow you to interact with the world in ways you so choose. It’s purpose is not to be pleasing for others to look at.
Keep in mind that your female body isn’t “for” baby making.
You’re in no way less of a woman/human if you choose not to, or are unable to have children. Mainstream seems to think our female bodies have 2 fundamental purposes: be sexy and bear children (and for God’s sake, loose that baby weight within 3 months with our $29.95, five step plan!). Whether you do or don’t, can or can’t have children, your body is not your enemy. Your body, every last bit of it, is “for” whatever you want it to be “for”, like eating chocolate cake, or riding a motorcycle, or both.
It’s not your job to look good.
Often times, women I meet at The OWN share stories about times they were made to feel like “looking good” was a big part of their job requirements (even in situations where they weren’t working with customers). In our state, you can pretty much get fired for anything, but if you get fired for not looking the way your boss wants you too (especially for no apparent reason), you've got better things to do than work for or with them.
You need 0 permission to look the way you do.
Wear makeup or don’t, sport long locks or cropped ones, choose your own clothes; wear leggings, jeggins, tunics, crop tops, blouses, visible bra straps, or whatever else you please at any age you’d like. Nobody owns you.
Try a media fast.
For a few years, I didn’t watch commercials, I changed my ad preferences online to not view diet ads, or clothing ads, or really ads at all (try adblock), and I avoided magazines like the plague. It changes the way you look at yourself and other women. I promise.
Talk about it, find a forum, and begin to realize we’ve been living in the matrix.
None of this was ever real. Women’s bodies have become par for the course for money making industries, and it’s always been a game. Talking about it with the women in your life may help normalize the issue of being, well, normal.
Over the past year and a half, I've been immeasurably blessed to meet women who have bucked the pressure to be at war with their bodies, and they've got a lot to show for it. Keep fighting the good fight, ladies.
Oh, and for good measure, here’s some of my personal favorite places to go when the journey of loving your body gets rough:
Quoted Source Links (in the order they appear):