How women can fight against unrealistic beauty standards

Women have long faced relentless images of what we ‘should’ look like, dictated by narrow and unrealistic beauty standards designed to make us feel inferior.

Women once strived for the hourglass figure of Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe by drinking weight gain shakes, fuelled by shame that a skinny frame indicated poverty or a lack of fertility.

Now, increasing numbers of celebrities use extreme diets and weight loss injections to attain the problematic super-skinny aesthetic, perpetuating body image issues for everyone who idolises them.

Even more appallingly, the popularity of drugs like Ozempic or Wegovy for drastic weight loss is creating a global shortage of these lifesaving medications for people with diabetes who need them for survival.

Seeing drastic weight loss glamourised once more feels like a disappointing and scary step backward for body inclusivity.

Rigid and narrow beauty ideals fuel body dissatisfaction and poor self-image and cost the economy billions of dollars in treating issues like eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

The beauty and diet industries tell us what is ‘wrong’ with our appearance to purposefully rob us of hope, empowerment, and comfort in our own skin.

Even if we sacrifice a massive chunk of our lives to live up to some arbitrary beauty ideal, a new one is just over the horizon.

By constantly shifting the goalposts, they perpetually reinforce the message that we aren’t enough.

Shame and dissatisfaction with our appearance keep us spending our time, money, and energy on beauty and diet products that often don’t work and have harmful side effects.

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If we are satisfied with our appearance, we spend less money on things that promise to ‘fix us’.

If we realise that happiness and confidence are internal, we are less susceptible to toxic messages that keep us hooked on the idea that if we look a certain way, our lives will be happier and more meaningful.

With so much stacked against us in the media and our social circles, how can the average woman fight against these toxic and unrealistic beauty standards?

How can we remember that we are perfect and whole in a world that constantly tries to convince us otherwise?

Unlearning toxic beauty ideals is not easy, but it is well worth the effort to protect your long-term wellbeing. Nobody should waste their lives despising how they look or spending all their time, money, and energy trying to change it.

Doing this difficult inner work will also benefit future generations by breaking down deeply rooted systems of oppression. Youth-centric beauty ideals are inherently sexist. The idealisation of thinness originated from a historical context of racism.

Everyone has the right to bodily autonomy, but this freedom is illusory in a context where thin, young, white, conventionally beautiful people receive more privilege and access to social and material resources.

Separating a human’s value from their appearance is a vital prerequisite for a world where we are free to live, feel, think, and look however we want.