For every weight loss article promising to have you two jean sizes smaller, there’s a self-help article telling you to love yourself and your body just as you are. Meanwhile, in that same self-help article is a photo of a stunning woman with flawless skin and an enviable body…regardless of size specifics. We can hear it till we’re blue in the face, but it’s difficult for the positive messages to sink in when we are bombarded by photoshopped images of the “ideal body.” Or I should say, the current ideal body. Yes, society’s view of the perfect body has changed a lot over the centuries and varies considerably from one culture to another.
A Beautiful Visual Showing How the Ideal Body Has Changed
Buzzfeed recently put out a stunning video that shows how the ideal body has changed over 3000 years, from thin to voluptuous and back again. When we scroll through history’s prototypes, it’s easy to see how these arbitrary physical standards keep shifting.
Just because your particular body type isn’t in season right now, doesn’t mean it wasn’t way back then…and won’t be in the future. So why the heck don’t we start loving our bodies as they are RIGHT NOW? Let’s break down Buzzfeed’s delineation of the ideal body type through history so we can really let the fickleness sink in:
Ancient Egypt:The ideal body in ancient Egypt was slender with a narrow frame and long legs.
Ancient Greece:The preference was for plump and full-bodied figures.
Han Dynasty: They treasured tiny waists and small feet.
Italian Renaissance: A celebration of big breasts, plump, rounded stomachs and full hips.
Victorian England:Plump and full-figured was still ideal, but with a “corseted” waist to emphasize curves.
Roaring Twenties: Small-breasted women with boyish figures and virtually no waistline were preferred.
Hollywood Glamour (30s-50s):Here we saw the curvy, hourglass figure emerge. Large breasts, slim waists…and boy-oh-boy did women feel the pressure to have more “meat on their bones.”
Swinging Sixties:The ideal body did a complete about-face with the emphasis on thin, willowy, Twiggy-like physiques. This body type stayed popular throughout the seventies, an era that saw the emergence of anorexia nervosa and diet pills.
Supermodel and Hard-Body Era (80s): Just imagine Cindy Crawford and you’ve got the ideal eighties body. Athletic, slender but curvy in all the “right” places, and toned arms and thighs.
Nineties Heroin Chic: A return to the sixties, the heroin chic look took thin to new heights with an androgynous body in complete juxtaposition to the Baywatch babe look that was still going strong.
Postmodern Beauty (2000s on):Today’s “ideal body” features a flat stomach, large breasts and booty, and overall “healthy” skinny look. The incongruity is difficult to achieve and reminiscent of the popular Gibson Girl ideal that was popular in the 1900-1910s. The Gibson Girl was slender and tall, but voluptuous with a large bust and wide hips…a body that was achieved by corseting and pinching the torso and waist. Nowadays, women have traded in the corsets for plastic surgery to achieve this exaggerated look.
Judging your body by the wacky and unattainable standards of today’s ideal is only going to make you miserable. So let’s STOP trying to look like today’s best bod, which will change with the seasons just like legwarmers and skinny jeans do, and START loving our bodies just the way they are. Because every body is different, and every body is beautiful…most of all YOURS!
Stop Talking Smack!
Truly appreciating your body is easier said than done, I’ll be the first to admit that. After all, we’ve spent years berating it: Why can’t I be skinnier? My boobs are so small it’s like an Easter egg hunt! I hate my thighs…I hate my round stomach…I hate, I hate, I hate… Ouch. Our poor bodies, down to our smallest cells, can hear that negative self-talk, and they wilt inside little by little. Negative self-talk amplifies our feelings of shame and despair, and often ends up determining our behaviors…like eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s when you’re already way past unbuttoning your jeans.
Time to Turn It Around
It takes time to retrain our thoughts and words into ones of love. So acknowledge your inner critic when she shows up, and then graciously send her on her way. Turn her critical comment into one of appreciation, so that my legs look fat in this dress becomes my legs are strong, and I’m so grateful they hold me up every day and that I get to show them off in this fabulous dress.
Respect Your Body
We tend to look at our bodies as ourselves, and because we are our harshest critics, we often treat it like a punching bag. What if we were to stop looking at our bodies as part of us, and start looking at our bodies as a friend. We wouldn’t make such disparaging comments about our best friend, would we? We would love and support her. And so, too, should we love and appreciate our bodies.
Avoid the Negative
A 1994 Stanford study, noted in this psychcentral article, concluded that the vast majority of women (70% in fact!) feel at their worst after reading women’s magazines, yet we continue to reach for them out of habit and hang on their every word. Try seeking out publications that reinforce positive messages. We really are spoilt for choice with a multitude of awesome blogs just a click away.
Show Your Body Gratitude
We know that showing gratitude on a daily basis has a host of positives effects, as detailed in this excellent Forbes article. Think of all your body does for you, and show it some gratitude! You can run from a bear (hopefully), you can jump up and down in excitement, you can bend over and stretch, you can have sex…there’s so much your body gives you. So start focusing on that, rather than picking it apart in the mirror.
Tips for Recalibration
Strive for health and happiness, not aesthetics and perfection. Feed your body right and get it moving…not to lose weight or tone your arms, but to keep it strong and disease-free. And if you can’t look in the mirror and be nice to your body, then stop looking in the mirror…at least when you’re naked. Your body will appreciate the break, and you might even notice some physical changes happening once you take the focus off imperfection. As you recalibrate your relationship to your body, keep the following tips in mind:
Don’t blame your body for things that might not be working in your life.
Own it! This is the body you were born in, and it’s a great one!
Don’t wait to love your body until you’ve reached your ideal weight.
Be visible. Don’t hide out. Share your beautiful body with the world. Bask in it unapologetically!
I’ll leave you with the poignant words of Regina Spektor from her beautifully positive song “Folding Chair.” I think she sums up perfectly the positive and practical view we all should take of our bodies. Such a simple yet powerful message...
I got a perfect body But sometimes I forget I got a perfect body Cause my eyelashes catch my sweat Yes they do, yes they do - Regina Spektor, lyrics from “Folding Chair”
Go Regina! I love that out of all of her fantastic body bits, she chose to give her eyelashes a shout out; that’s my kinda gal! Yes, the struggle to love our bodies is real…for all of us, rock stars included. But we don’t have to go at it alone. Reach out to your sisters and friends for support. And the Glad Lash community is always here for you. We’d love to hear about your experiences, so please share your thoughts, struggles and successes by leaving a comment below. Let’s grow more and more comfortable in our skins, together.
Image credit to Howard Schatz, image from his book Athlete.
LA based actress and writer, Amy Lucas, is our resident beauty blogger. With a penchant for living life to full, you'll find her here sharing her musings on health & wellness and of course beauty. We're sure you'll love her positive, open and honest approach to life. It's a much needed breath of fresh air and we are thrilled to have her as a contributing author on the Glad Lash Blog! You can read more from Amy at her personal blog www.musingsofaminx.com.