We are bombarded daily with messages that lead us to believe our bodies not only determine our self-worth but also our ability to be happy and engage in the world. The $64 billion and rising weight-loss industry promotes these messages, which encourage insecurity and discontent with our bodies and physical appearance. Society tells us that we must have flawless skin, toned muscles, flat stomachs, sculpted backs, six packs, the perfect tan, and countless other trivial attributes in order to have happy and successful lives.
And not only that but the weight-loss industry profits from these messages. Seriously, think about it, the sustainability of this industry relies on two principles:
- Making people feel insecure about their bodies and question their inherent self-worth.
- Producing products and programs that fail so people must return to them over and over again.
It’s both infuriating and heartbreaking to think about.
We’re led to believe that our bodies are our one masterpiece in life- a project that we must always work on, shaping and forming into a piece of art for other’s viewing pleasure and approval. We are pressured to obsess over our bodies as we attempt to perfect them and mold them to fit the societal standards of beauty and fitness. And who defines these standards? The same industry that sells products promised to help us achieve these ideals but designed to make us fail and feel not good enough in the end.
More than often, the media; fashion, fitness, and beauty industries; and the performance arts assert that only certain bodies should be valued for their appearance, abilities, artistic expression. They proclaim that bodies must be toned and aesthetically pleasing. Such messages are exclusionary and lead us to believe we cannot participate in certain domains of life due to the size, shape, and the overall appearance of our bodies. These are the same messages that not only lead to body dissatisfaction and a fractured self-esteem, but also to dissatisfaction with life in general.
We begin to believe that only certain bodies can dance, attend fitness classes, perform in a ballet, model on a runway, wear a bikini, and so on. These subtle (and not so subtle) hints about our bodies permeate every facet of life and lead to judgment, shame, fear, and withdrawal. They lead us to disconnect from our bodies and resent our bodies for not allowing us to participate in the world and experience joy.
But what if this didn’t have to be the case?
Glennon Melton, author of Love Warrior, proposes that we reject the commonly held societal view of the body as a piece of art and something we must perfect and offer to the world for approval. Rather, she urges us to see our bodies as paintbrushes and vehicles for expression that allow us to transfer our insides onto the “canvas of life” in whatever way we choose to.
She asserts that it doesn’t matter what your paintbrush looks like, just make sure to USE it! Just as paintbrushes of any size and appearance function in their own unique and beautiful ways, so do the vast spectrum of human bodies. The inherent, unparalleled beauty and ability of each individual’s body adds to the diverse beauty of life and what we are able to create of it.
Our bodies function as a unique and unmatched vehicle for engaging in life. They are the paintbrushes that allow us to express, create, connect, immerse, grow, move, and inspire. The appearance of our bodies does not determine our ability to use them, and be happy and successful. Rather, the way in which we choose to view and use our bodies (and minds) determines our ability to be happy and successful.
“Happiness is a state of mind, not a smaller pant size.”
Happiness is not a toned muscle.
Happiness is not a six pack.
Happiness is not a certain hair style.
Happiness is not perfectly even, wrinkle-free skin.
Happiness is not the absence of cellulite and stretch marks.
Happiness is not the number on the scale.
Happiness is not the color of our skin.
Happiness is not a particular height.
Happiness is not a flat stomach.
Happiness is not the size of our breasts.
Happiness is not any physical attribute, achievement, or status.
Happiness is a state of mind that is accessible to all people regardless of appearance, ability, and any other social factor. All people have the right to be happy and all bodies have the right to participate in each and every activity and domain of life. These are the messages we need to spread.