With summer on the way, Life&Style’s Phoebe Snedker criticises the unrealistic standards for body image during this season

Second year English Literature and History student.
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With summer just around the corner, the romanticisation of the ideal ‘summer bod’ in media discourse is looming upon us. The drive for the perfect glowing tan, figure and Instagram feed is in full force, particularly now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to be eased. This year especially, I feel it is so important to reject these concepts of idealised beauty and truly embrace our bodies in their own right.

The bodies we see and praise online are largely unrealistic and unobtainable

The question we must all consider is: why are we so obsessed with creating the perfect social media presence? Planning posts in advance, consistently editing and altering our photos and obsessing over likes seems to have become a standard procedure in our lives. But why? The bodies we see and praise online are largely unrealistic and unobtainable, yet we still hold these idealised figures on a golden pedestal.

As someone who has struggled with body image through my teenage years, it has taken me many years to realise that if I only post my ‘good moments’ online – making a conscious effort with my appearance though makeup, fake tan, posing in ways that flatter my figure, using filters, and so forth – it is likely that others are doing this too. In comparing ourselves to others online, we are only seeing the moments that people wish to share with the world – celebrity or not. We are not seeing any deemed ‘flaws,’ such as broken skin, scars, stretch marks, and so forth. Of course we are going to envy portrayals of others online when we can only see what are stereotyped to be the ‘highlights’ of beauty.

It is important to move away from ‘perfecting’ our appearances online

I feel it so important to reinforce that these features previously mentioned as ‘flaws’ are human, and beautiful in their own right. For me personally, the COVID-19 lockdowns have taken away the pressure of posting on social media and comparing myself to others and their lives. I have learned to love all of my stretch marks, scars, my hip dips, my wonky boobs – all of the things I had previously considered to be ‘ugly’ or ‘weird’ because they were absent from my timeline.

One of Lizzo’s recent posts serves as an example of people being more transparent with their appearance online. She posted a nude photo in honour of her partnership with the #DoveSelfEsteemProject, with the caption: ‘To celebrate I wanna give y’all this unedited selfie.. now normally I would fix my belly and smooth my skin but baby I wanted show u how I do it au natural.’ It is important to move away from ‘perfecting’ our appearances online; we see so much of it that we have been programmed to believe smooth skin, without wrinkles, moles, blemishes, etc. is the norm, when in reality it could not be further from it. The more people with larger followings that set this example, the more beneficial it will be for their audiences and general self-esteem.

We should not allow the ‘summer bod’ idealised online deter us from feeling confident and having fun

Following such a hard year with lockdowns and isolation, we should not allow the ‘summer bod’ idealised online deter us from feeling confident and having fun. Be proud of your skin, no matter how pale or dark; wear that outfit and show off your figure; smile with a big cheeky grin in pictures with those you love. It breaks my heart how so many men and women are reluctant to leave the comfort of their homes because social media has taught us that you need to look a certain (often unobtainable) way in order to be attractive or worthy.

For me, these lockdowns have made me realise how unimportant it is to maintain an ‘interesting’ social media persona – constantly going to exciting places and validating it with a post – and how important it is to love ourselves, our bodies and those around us. Of course, take photos, document memories, and express yourself how you wish online, but it is time we normalised these ‘flaws’ and encouraged others to see the beauty in being unapologetically human.

 

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