Categorising Beauty

We are seeing a revolution in the body image world. Yep, we are seeing women everywhere finally embrace the fact that everyone’s body’s are different and beautiful and it’s only whether we are mentally and physically healthy that matters. In other news, a unicorn has finally been born into London zoo, after years of trying to restore the previous populations of this noble creature across the UK.

And now you figure out I was being sarcastic. Because I am not sure that we are reaching a revolution at all. If we aren’t looking in the mirror every morning to see if skinny really does feel better than pizza tastes, we get to check for bulging pecs, abs, and toned glutes. We are pretty much all guilty of it- all of us health focused people, who were overjoyed to see that being healthy was finally, finally , trickling down into the mainstream. But then the “fitspo” started.

 I am all for motivational pictures and quotes. I love seeing what people are whipping up in the kitchen. Celebrities embracing Pilates and yoga? I’m all for it. It’s all been very anti-thinspo, with muscles and curves too been given a spotlight: “Real men want curves; only dogs want bones”. Great. But then, I’m pretty bony in places. “Any idiot can drive straight, only an expert can handle curves”. Okay, I have a few curves. I mean not many but….but I’m fit enough; I have really toned up my arms, and my butt…isn’t that great? But I don’t have abs. Even though I workout 5-6 days a week, around all the other stuff I have to do. Ah, well “If you don’t work for it, you probably don’t deserve it”. Wait, so the work I’m doing isn’t good enough? I mean, some days I change the workout I’d planned because I didn’t get in until 11pm from work, and got up at 7am- y’know, swap a 40 minute metabolism booster for 20 minutes of yoga, a Pilates video and a few reps with my weights. *Insert picture of mum of 16 with abs reading “what’s your excuse?’*.

Starting with the new fitspo culture is just a way to introduce you guys to what is going to be the main topic of this post, because each “body confidence” movement has its “inspo”. Each one can make you feel, I think, like you need to fit a certain image to join the club. Let’s go by different standards of beauty- from the ‘skinny’, ‘curvy’, and ‘strong’ camps. Okay. Surely I can fit into one of these. It seems my legs are built in a way that means there is a gap between my thighs right now, so maybe I fit into ‘skinny’- but I also have hips. Ah, maybe not then…perhaps I fit into ‘curvy’! Oh, but there’s the whole anti- thigh gap thing. And I’m only a size 8. Well, I eat healthily, I workout, I love being active. Surely I belong in ‘strong’. Oh, but I don’t “go hard” at the gym every week because I can’t afford the membership. And my heaviest dumbbells are only 4.5kg each. I don’t have abs either. Hmm, well guys, looks like I am not considered beautiful under any of these movements.

 Why would it be so bloody difficult to put up a billboard somewhere, just saying:

Hey you. 
You don’t need to fit any standard of beauty. You don’t need to be curvy, or skinny, or strong to be beautiful- in fact why not be all three? Or none of them? You need to find what makes you happy, and what makes you feel healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically. You are beautiful right now. You body isn’t what makes people want you- it shouldn’t be what makes you want you.

When did it become right for us to try and slot ourselves neatly into categories? Slag off any body type that isn’t our own to make ourselves feel better? Why should I even give a shit what men want my body to look like? Do I really want someone to value me purely based on my body? I thought that as long as you were healthy it was all good? In the same way some women have curves, some have a less curvaceous structure. Some have athletic figures.

Do you know why no one has ever put up a billboard saying the above? It isn’t catchy enough. It isn’t a great marketing slogan. Think of the majority of skinny/strong/curvy inspirations you see. Chances are most (not all) have a brand, a celebrity, or an event behind them. They’re all there to make you think you aren’t good enough, and that buying X/Y/Z, or emulating person A/B/C by buying X/Y/Z, or attending event 1/2/3 will make you better. I’m pretty sure many of us remember Protein World‘s “Are You Beach Body Ready?” campaign. Defaced by London Underground users- and for good reason. Many companies are attempting to use what began as a way to inspire people to reach for goals as a beating stick. A beating stick to herd us into their online shops. The only two campaigns I remember inspiring me, in place of making me feel worse about myself, are the #likeagirl from Always, and the #thisgirlcan campaign. These campaigns are amazing, YouTube them, learn from them, be inspired by them.

If you want to be healthier, or look a certain way, or reach a certain goal regarding your body then go for it. But if you’re happy right now that’s fine too. And yes, you can love your body, whilst still working to change it, if that’s what you want. Just be sure to ask yourself why you want to change it first- is it to become kickass strong and see what your body is like at optimum fitness? Or is it to achieve that end goal of having a thinner waist/smaller arms/bigger butt? I hope you gave the answer that shows the most respect towards yourself.

I feel as if I’m being repetitive here, and it’s something I’m guilty of myself. There are days I can stand and pick holes in my appearance (as clearly indicated above), but please don’t place your worth on belonging to one standard of beauty. Place your worth on your talents, your personality, and the things you do when you aren’t worrying about how fat/skinny/weak you look. Your appearance and your worth are two very different things. I may wish I had abs, and looked like my favourite IG personal trainers. Does that make me a bad person? No. Does it make me worthless? Certainly not. Will I continue working to try and build my body’s strength and activity levels? Yes- but that doesn’t mean I don’t have redeeming features now. Use others and their achievements to inspire you- hey, I have a motivation/inspiration board on my wall, featuring my favourite fitness YouTubers, inspirational quotes, and food pictures- but not as a tool to put yourself down.

Chances are there is a reason you don’t fit one standard of beauty. And that is because no one ever has, or will have, a body exactly the same as yours. How can you categorise something that is entirely one of a kind?


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