Maybe you’ve just realized that the body standard is a serious problem. Maybe you’ve known it for a long time and you want to know how to make a difference. The problem of beauty seems to big because it’s about an idea. The problem is how we see beauty and who we choose to see it in, as a culture. It’s not something you can start a recycling program for at your school, or do a bottle drive to raise money for. The standard of beauty is something that seeps into our brains every day and it’s hard to pinpoint a place to attack, to make a difference, or at least make a change.
Do not dispair! Here are my top tips for being part of the beauty solution:
a) Make an effort to understand that the standard of beauty many of us hold is not natural. It’s cultural. That means that society teaches us what is attractive and we can unlearn this behaviour, with some work. Evidence? Other cultures see larger women as attractive and in previous centuries, the Western nations that currently support skinny as the ultimate body shape once found this figure very unattractive. You aren’t doomed to live out the version of beauty that is currently in fashion. You can choose to begin to crack away at it.
b) Try to see beauty in other body shapes. Look for reasons to find someone attractive, instead of focusing on flaws. The more you look, the more you’ll see. Open up. Begin to question your assumptions about what is attractive and try to widen your definition of beauty.
c) Compliment people of a variety of body shapes and types (but only if you’re genuine). When you see beauty, say it. If you look for it, you will see beauty everywhere. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ve been missing.
d) The easiest thing you can do? Refrain from critiquing anyone else’s body. Publicly or privately. Tell yourself that everyone’s got a story and move on. Their body is their body and, like your mamma told you, if you don’t got something nice to say, don’t say it at all. Because everyone has enough body doubts without you giving them more to worry about and what does it hurt you that someone looks the way they do?
Also, I’m not just talking about the people you might be theoretically dissing. I mean the people that could hear you dissing others and think, “Am I skinnier than her? If that’s the scale, where am I between hot and disgusting?” Because, I assure you that what you say is heard and understood by your listeners. Girls or guys, everyone is constantly learning what the scale of hot and disgusting is from you (and others, of course). Everyone teaches everyone what is appropriate, what the norms are, and what beauty is. Be careful what you’re teaching.
e) Actually, also refrain from criticizing your OWN body too. Treat yourself like a friend. Would someone who cares about you critique you like you critique yourself? Or would they love you for who and what you are? I’m hoping the latter. The first step to loving yourself is looking at yourself through the eyes of those who love you.
f) You can also tell people to shut their yap when they go around teaching a beauty that you don’t support. Or, okay, at least offer a different perspective when you hear them. Let them know that there’s more than one type of beauty and their style ain’t yours. Let them know that you find that beauty limiting and harmful. Stand up for a different version of beauty to offer an alternative. Remember, you’re teaching people what is normal and acceptable. If your friends muttering “cow” as someone passes is unacceptable to you? Let them know you think so.
You can be part of change in small, important ways. Every body belongs to someone, someone who must – at whatever size they are – love themselves. Love themselves so that they can continue to prosper, or change, or grow, or (and especially) love someone else. It’s a big problem, an issue of ideas and ideals, but there are big plans for changes.