I am delighted that the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is body image. It is a plague on our societal house that we are encouraged by an influential media to look ‘a certain way’. It mainly affects women, who are supposed to look like the scantily clad women whose bodies adorn red top newspapers and their online content, although men are not exactly immune from the pressure. That many of the images are subject to digital enhancement is never pointed out. Somehow that’s irrelevant anyway.
It is not just about people who have lost or gained weight. It is also about ‘blemishes’. I was born with a substantial birthmark on my cheek and spent my childhood being referred to as ‘mole’ and, mercifully, for a short time ‘Keyhole Kate’, as my birthmark resembled a keyhole, a map of Britain or a mole. These were the days before laser surgery which removes birthmarks simply snd effectively. I had two operations that I knew would leave a scar but that would be preferable to a blotchy red mark. People still ask today what the scar on my face was caused by. I’m old and grizzled now and really don’t care. This was not the case when I was young.
Why the drive for so called perfection and does it actually exist? That’s the thing: no one can say. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s totally subjective.
How about the term ‘plus size’? Why should women of a certain size be described as such? Why not describe women of a different size be called ‘minus size’? In my view, descriptions like these are meaningless. And here’s another why: why is there any need to prattle on about size in the first place?
Middle age in a person brings home the near certainty that weight gain is more likely. It’s preventable, but not easy to avoid if you want to actually enjoy yourself. When someone who is, 27, brags about losing weight, remind them of that when they are 57 and everything is going south.
Instead, why not celebrate diversity, not just in terms off colour, culture and all the rest of it, but in terms of how we look. What is one person’s wart is another person’s beauty spot. And instead of passing comment on someone else’s perceived blemishes, a comment which will inevitably be negative and hurtful, intended or not (and I always believe such comments are deliberately hurtful), why not accept we are all different?
Concerns about body image make many people ill. The truth is many of us cannot do much about the way we look. We have to accept it, live with it and be happy with it. Why can’t you?