By Molly Gorman
ALEXA, play ‘Summertime’ by Ella Fitzgerald. In the UK, the familiar bustle of pubs and shops has resumed, socialising ‘subtly’ is being encouraged, and I’m sure that wherever you are right now, life is considerably more vibrant. The stark difference between last year and this year is overwhelming - we’ve transitioned from being confined to small spaces with little human contact, into a state of ‘normality’ in an apparently post-Covid world.
And for a lot of us, we’ve really changed; not only on the inside but also physically. The easing of Covid restrictions can only serve to amplify all these changes. Whether that’s weight gain or weight loss, skin texture, or hair colour, we’ve had a hard time and it’s important to remember that we’ve survived a global pandemic. It’s natural for your body to change and fluctuate as time passes, especially through periods of stress.
It’s all in the love songs, isn’t it? I mean, the songs that climb to the UK top 40, the flawlessly bubble-gum pop songs that have the monotonous beat and the incessantly cringe-but-we-love-it type lyrics - ‘I wish you could see you the way I see you’ / You’re beautiful just the way you are’ / ‘You’re insecure, don’t know what for…’. We’re a diffident bunch and everyone knows it. Gen-Z have grown up in an age of social media, selfies, and surgery at their fingertips, so it’s unsurprising that we are obsessed with our appearances. Phone cameras can capture you looking your best and your worst, at any-time and anywhere. Before you know it, your auntie’s friend’s cousin’s sister is following you on Instagram.
When using TikTok, and despite loving that app SO much, I closely keep an eye on my algorithm and really take control of the content I’m viewing. It’s full of ‘What I Eat in a Day’ videos, Zara hauls, workout advice, and you can be swiftly dragged into a wave of toxicity if you haven’t set some boundaries. I can’t help but subconsciously look at other women and compare every single visible body part to my own, a habit that is both harmful to myself and something that can cause you to lose perspective of what’s important. It’s so easy to start comparing without considering your own individuality and uniqueness.
And GIRLS - stop viewing yourself through the male gaze. We sadly still live in a world of unequal social powers where women are still hypersexualised, objectified and harassed (the list really does go on) and some men feel empowered and entitled to look at women through their chosen lens. But you don’t have to please anyone or be a certain shape to be seen as beautiful. When I was a naive 18-year-old in my freshers year at university, I was grateful for men who approached me and found me attractive, as I never had that in school. Coming from a small town with a limited number of options to find love, let’s say, I was never one of the girls who the boys would speak about in the sixth form common room, or try to ‘pull’ at a house party when we were fifteen years-old. Imagine being grateful to someone for finding you attractive!
And I know all you hear these days is ‘self-love’ this, ‘self-care’ that. It can feel incredibly inauthentic as brands throw it around like it’s a money-making machine; it has come to lose how meaningful it really is. Practically learning to love and accept yourself is indescribably hard, but by focusing on changing yourself as opposed to accepting yourself for who you are, real problems can arise. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a serious condition that can affect anyone at any age, but it most commonly affects teenagers and young adults. For women, it might mean that you perceive your body or certain, specific features to be bigger than they really are. Your shape might change with each individual mirror you pass, our bodies warping like jelly, like the mirrors of a funhouse. For men, you might think you have less muscle than you really do, leading to a tendency for compulsive muscle building exercise.
Imagine if every time you walked past someone in the street, they criticised your appearance? It would be a constant knock to anyone’s self-worth. The same applies to how you speak to yours truly - it’s exhausting to constantly think negatively about yourself. There’s no worse feeling than body checking every time you walk past a mirror and obsessively picking out the same things that drive you crazy every day. It almost becomes habitual - scrutinising that one spot, or that one wobbly bit of skin, or anything you perceive to be flawed or imperfect about your body.
Realistically and rationally, those things you hate about yourself or your body are never noticed by anyone else but you. You might think that everyone is your enemy, that they’re picking apart your whole look from your hair down to your trainers, but for all you know they might be admiring that bright floral dress, or your tattoos, or your jeans.
You know that feeling when you’ve tried on 50 outfits, and nothing feels right? That top is just a little too tight around your tummy, seeping gently out of your comfort zone, or your hair just won’t stay put in that sleek ponytail the way you want it to? If you’re like me, your mood just plummets to the deep, dark depths of hell, becoming a feeling of numbness after a while. Oh, to just throw on any old dress and be carefree enough to just walk out the door - sounds dreamy right? Do it. Grab a safe outfit, something comfortable, and tell yourself , “I am more than my exterior.”
If you think you might be struggling with BDD or even if your insecurities are simply heightened right now, then please do reach out to a charity, such as the BDD Foundation, or a medical professional. Treatment may not be smooth-sailing and it really does depend on the severity for each individual, but little changes can make a massive difference. Let’s start with those positive affirmations. For every adverse thought that comes into your head, acknowledge it, but then flip it into something kind. The more positive things you can say about yourself the better, and however naff this may be, say it to yourself in the mirror over and over and over until it sinks in.
Our bodies are precious. Self-acceptance may come slowly but if there’s a time to love yourself then it’s never too late.
So, as 20 people sit around a desk in a tiny room in LA writing trashy pop songs, continuing to capitalise off our insecurities, listen to the sentiment: I do wish you could see yourself the way others see you. Would you tell a loved one that you don’t like their outfit or comment on their weight? You better not! And if you would, think about how your comments can affect someone.
Life has so many challenges to throw at us, to test our resilience, and to help us grow. So, let’s stop making it so difficult for ourselves to love who we are so we can focus on the good things. The food, endless pub trips, being with friends and family and finally lying on the beach in a bikini - it’s a HOT GIRL LIFE and you’re already fucking hot.