Grow Your Confidence and Move Past Body Image Issues

We talk about how your understanding of beauty standards affects your body image and confidence

Have you ever seen Loki or X-Men’s Mystique on-screen and wondered how easy life would be if only you could shapeshift like them? Just one thought and now you’d have the hourglass figure you’ve always wanted. Another thought and now you’re 5cm taller with no need of those chunky boots to make you seem that way. 

As much as it seems like the perfect solution, we all know that shapeshifting is realistically impossible. Yet, we somehow always eagerly push different ideals of the perfect body through the years — as if we’re all shapeshifters.

Defining Your Ideal Body Image 

What, then, is the issue here? Is it bad to have goals relating to our bodies or to appreciate beauty and desire it? There is really no concrete answer to this. Yet, I believe that goals, in and of itself, are harmless and can even be motivating for us to pursue a healthier lifestyle. The issue only arises when goals become unrealistic and the desire for beauty turns into guilt for looking the way you do right now. 

“I shouldn't have eaten that __. Now, I would look like a/an __ ”. Fill in the blanks and it may sound vaguely familiar to you. But if we pause for a moment to think about it, can our bodies actually look ‘wrong’? Do we have the ‘wrong’ body shape or size until we’ve achieved our insatiable body goals? It may seem that way sometimes, especially when everyone else appears to be in the ‘right’ body shape and every social media picture of that girl is as perfect as it can be.

However, we’ve to always bear in mind that every picture probably went through a myriad of careful selection, filters, and editing before it’s presented to the public eye. As cliche as it may sound, it’s often a point we forget as our overwhelming guilt embraces us. With that, perhaps a better body goal could be whether our bodies are healthy rather than whether it fits into a certain size. 

How Languages and Trends Set Beauty Standards and Meaning

Now, you may be thinking, “What about those naturally beautiful people I see in real life? They don’t have filters on and they couldn’t have edited themselves!”

While this may be true, the idea of beauty is still subjective. From plump to skinny to slim or thick, the fragility of beauty standards isn’t just reflected throughout history but the differences exist even between cultures. As we acknowledge the fact that we’re not shapeshifters, it’s also equally important to understand that beauty exists in different ways within different communities. 

However, this doesn’t mean that we need to stretch the definition of beauty to the point where it loses its meaning. Beauty is subjective and I believe it’s still possible to perceive someone as ‘not beautiful’. Yet, in our constant evaluation of the people around us and ourselves, we’;ve to recognise that our opinion may not reflect others’ reality. For example, label someone thicc and the individual is viewed through a sexualized lens whereas if the same individual is labeled plus-sized, there seems to be a more neutral and confident tone. 

Emerging phrases used to describe one’s body can be overwhelming at times and would no doubt influence how we view these characteristics. Similarly, the language with which we label ourselves can define our reality of our own body. I’m not saying that we should completely refrain from using certain adjectives to describe ourselves or others. Instad, we should be aware of its possible impact. After all, beauty is subjective and the language used can play a key role in building confidence.

How Beauty Standards Results Affects Your Confidence

Of course, as much as we understand the subjectivity of beauty, the voice around us can still make us feel less confident in our body. Over time, we may even feel obliged to conform to others’ perception of beauty. If so, it may be time for us to reflect on the things that we’ve allowed to linger in our mind. 

Amidst the never-ending information and opinions in our everyday lives, it’s important to recognise that not everything we see deserves a place in our mind. Some emphasize on fitness and health while others focus on achieving a certain body goal. These different opinions may not necessarily be right or wrong rather it depends on what makes us feel confident. 

Some of us may be familiar with this saying, what you see is what you think about. It’s difficult to feel good about yourself when you’re surrounded by voices that say your current body isn’t good enough. However, this doesn’t mean that we should exclude all opinions that don't fit ours because, without feedback, there’s no room for improvement. Perhaps a better way to have the best of both worlds is to be aware of what you see and what you allow to linger in your mind. By doing so, we regain control over our own mind and body which may make it easier to build confidence in ourselves without being overwhelmed by others.

A New Perspective to Beauty Standards and Body Image

A final thing to think about: Will you be satisfied when you attain your body goals? When all your hard work produces the result that you want, it’ll no doubt leave you satisfied. Yet, a reminder that I can’t stress enough is that beauty standards will always evolve and it is a never-ending chase of an ideal. 

To some extent, having the perfect body means having to be stagnant before the next beauty trend emerges into something entirely different. Although it’s not wrong to have your own body goals, it’s wise not to allow your self-worth to rely solely on your outward appearance. You’re not a shapeshifter and you don’t have to force yourself to be one. Choose your ideal only because it’s your body and your life and not because you’re pressured by society. Regardless, I hope we can always remember to be kind to ourselves.

Kristy Chong is a guest contributor for Taylor’s University. She’s currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology at Taylor's University. She was the 2021 Vice President of Taylor's Psych Society and is passionate in exploring new opportunities within various fields. She currently volunteers to raise awareness on autism and is a marketing intern at Unilever Malaysia