Self-image is a fundamental part of ourselves and a facet around which we make many life-defining decisions – from the food we eat to the medical interventions we seek and beyond. While pride in self can be a powerful and positive thing, there is a dark underbelly represented by low self-esteem and unrealistic standards, influenced in large part by the ubiquity of social media.
According to a recent study by the Mental Health Foundation, over a third of UK adults feel negative about their physical appearance, while 20% feel shame. These figures are particularly telling, and particularly prescient when it comes to the subject at hand: body goals and body trends.
Our health and fitness goals, and our wider image ambitions, are naturally linked to body trends, or the body types and shapes that enjoy special attention over time. These trends have shifted on almost a decade-by-decade basis, from the hourglass figures of the 1950s to the skinny frames of the 90s and back again.
Indeed, hourglass figures have once again returned to popularity, in part due to the fame and continued success of reality TV star and social media influencer Kim Kardashian. The Kardashian family has heralded a new age of body inspiration, and in so doing changed the way that many people hope to change their bodies.
But the standards set by those in the public eye are often unattainable, and even potentially dangerous to emulate. Kim Kardashian’s specific measurements were only made possible by a combination of strict dieting and surgical procedures, while news has recently come to light that the family pays paparazzi to alter their body shapes in Photoshop before selling pictures.
Charting a Healthy Path
In a world where aspirational fitness goals are inaccessible, and low self-esteem is higher than ever before, how can you chart a safe path to healthy and realistic body goals? Before we explore further, it is important to acknowledge the difficulties that poor self-image can create for someone – especially where medical conditions like body dysmorphia and gender dysphoria are concerned.
In such cases, cosmetic surgeries are valid forms of treatment or even cure; with a coached approach to surgical intervention, affirming treatments can make all the difference for self-esteem and comfort in one’s skin. But for those who simply want to reflect the ideals they see on their smartphone screens, a different approach may be in order.
Rather than harming yourself to attain an unrealistic body standard, a discussion of possibilities with a PT or gym coach can help you redefine your goals. Even a detox from social media can help you recalibrate, and forge a healthier relationship with your body as it is.