Body Image

Jenn Ryan

My body was never really my body.


It was shaped by the things that people said it should be. Like the women I saw in advertisements. Or when my mom told me I needed to start wearing a bra at the age of 10. Or when my friends in school told me I was gross for not shaving my legs.


This is how society says what you should look like.


So I became what I imagined a beautiful woman to look like. I started shaving my legs and underarms (and later other areas). I wore makeup and tight clothes for my boyfriends at school. I painted my nails. I worked out, went on diets, and eventually became borderline bulimic to try and be “healthier”. What I couldn’t see was that I had this amazing body that was beautiful in its own right. I’ve never been overweight. I’ve never had acne. My hair was full and thick. My breasts were large and firm. What did I have to complain about?


Here’s what you should like according to society.


Tiny Waistline, Big Boobs

You’ve long heard this one, right? Smaller women are preferred with a small waistline, yet with large breasts. Is this even physically possible? Well, thanks to modern surgery, yes it is


This is pretty odd though when you consider the fact that men are biologically wired to love curvy women. This is because curvy women represented a healthy body fat percentage that meant greater chance for optimal fertility, therefore leading to pregnancy


So why are stick-thin women so valued in our society? It’s odd because we think that men want us if we’re thin. But research shows otherwise. This is a perfect example of how societal values conflict with reality.


Ew, Is That Hair?

Society has somehow managed to teach us that hair is not normal, natural, or attractive. This leads to thousands of dollars spent over a lifetime per woman on getting rid of her body hair. This is highly conventional in the United States, but also around the world. Society tells us that women should be hairless.


The same concept also roughly applies to men. Clean-shaven men with a “normal” amount of body hair are considered attractive. If you’re too hairy or not hairy enough, then sorry, guys—apparently ladies won’t like you.


When I stopped shaving, I was the target of ridicule at my school, with my family, and even my grandmother. When I stopped shaving my legs for good (I was fifteen), she asked, “But why?”


Because I don’t need to be hairless to love my body.  Because my body naturally has hair. Because I love my body hair. I later stopped shaving everything and to this day don’t own a razor of any kind.


Makeup = Necessity 

Your real face isn’t good enough. Why? Because if it was, women wouldn’t spend billions of dollars every year on makeup. Most of this makeup contains chemicals that are getting absorbed into our bodies, processed by our livers, and leave a trail of toxins along their way. Fake dyes, animal products, and man-made chemicals are laced throughout this makeup that supposedly makes us look attractive and worthwhile.


Wearing makeup alters our appearance so that we “feel good” and are “happy” with the way we look. If you were truly happy, you’d realize that you didn’t need makeup. If for whatever reason you do love makeup, try natural versions or make your own.


The Push-Up Bra

Forget about every other piece of clothing you’ve ever owned—the push-up bra has taken over your entire wardrobe with its presence. Women who don’t wear bras are frowned upon in our society, although studies have shown that wearing bras actually leads to underdeveloped pectoral muscles and therefore increases your chances for having saggy breasts later in life.


It’s not good enough to wear a bra anymore. Wearing a push-up bra can enhance your chest’s appearance, give you cleavage (something that rarely happens without a bra), and supposedly makes you more attractive with better posture. Although it’s been shown that a bra actually puts more pressure on your back, therefore leading to back and shoulder pain.


Have we lost touch with everything that we actually are because we view ourselves through the lens of society? Being Barbie isn’t physically possible (literallyif Barbie were made into a real person, she would fall over because of her unrealistic proportions), so why do we try


Society says you should look like this. What society doesn’t tell you is that it’s entirely possible to love your body without all these things and to exist as a woman. Do you find true happiness in makeup? Is there inner peace in the padding of that push-up bra? Are you sexy when shaved?


Rediscover yourself. Forget society. You are a strong beautiful woman

Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who’s passionate about natural health. She loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued bunnies.