Millennials are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the way they look. All they want is to look perfect. This leads to anxiety and stress. PULKIT SHARMA tells you why it is important to break societal stereotypes about beauty and think beyond it
Even though the desire to look beautiful is as old as history, the last few decades have witnessed a raging obsession with appearances. Millennials are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the way they look, and they are desperate to acquire a ‘designer body’ with perfect looks. Most of these people look fine but they are deeply convinced that something is wrong with their appearance and consequently, they suffer from social anxiety, depression, and poor self-confidence. Exasperating workouts, measly diets and cosmetic surgeries are fast becoming a norm as this sizeable population works hard to fix its imagined ugliness and feel good.
What could have caused so many people to despise their normal bodies? Blame it on the prevalent global culture of body shaming. We get multiple messages everyday telling us that there is something terribly wrong with our body: friends and family bantering us to lose some pounds of weight, actors and models flaunting their specimen figures and thousands of advertisements persuading us to utilise their services in living up to the most unrealistic standards of body image. Even small children are exposed to these bizarre standards.
All this creates a vicious circle where we despise our appearance, criticise other people for their physical imperfections and then as a reaction, they start hating some aspect of their appearance and mock at us for not being picture perfect. Ultimately, we end up perpetuating cycles of self-loathing and body shaming. To break free, we need to question these bizarre standards of bodily perfection. Physical beauty is short-lived — our bodies change over time and so does the perception of other people about our physical appeal. Besides, there are many individual, societal and cultural variations in the standards used to determine physical beauty.
More often than not, we think that by changing our body and turning it into a certain type will end all our worries but, experience and research shows that even those few who manage to attain such unreachable targets continue to reel under fear and pain. The answer lies in changing how we look at our body, shoving off all the dysfunctional perceptions and beliefs we have internalised over the years around what constitutes a beautiful body.
Begin this healing journey by boldly rejecting messages that tell you to despise your body and look for ideas, words and stories around body acceptance and love. It also includes identifying and silencing your inner critic which tells you time and again to berate your body. You must also educate your family, friends, and acquaintances in clear words that body shaming in any form is cruel and encourage them to coalesce in bringing a change in your close circle. Going further, make a resolve to love your body as it is and frame some strong body positive messages which you can repeat to yourself every day.
The writer is a clinical psychologist and the author of When the Soul Heals