Skin Deep

Today we’re taking a step back from the festivities of Blogmas and talking about beauty standards within today’s society. A slightly heavier topic, one that I’ve been inspired to write about form my new university project brief. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘but Han, you’re getting a degree in fashion’, believe it or not, it’s slightly deeper than that. Having to come up with interesting project concepts, like this, is what gets the ball rolling in the design process.

To give you a brief overview of my project concept, we’ll start with the fact that it’s an industry brief (so the more love on this post, the better), with Rural Hideaway and Nomadic Travel being the 2 titles to chose from, I’ve opted for the latter. Initially exploring Nomadic tribes, their way of living – this later led me onto their process of scarification. A ritual that represents beauty, strength and power. This got me thinking, how, in Western society do we modify our bodies – enhancing beauty or representing strength? Tattoos, piercings, plastic surgery, make up? Where has the global obsession with vanity derived from? And, why does the society we live in have an idea of what ‘beauty’ is, yet if you don’t fit within these boundaries, you’re no longer deemed beautiful?

We’re all somewhat concerned with the way we look, if you’re sat reading this, denying that, you’re lying to yourself. There’s nothing wrong with looking in the mirror, accepting yourself, whether that be your flaws or the things about yourself you love. In fact, this is something we should all do. That’s not vanity, vanity is when you take it a step up, you take excessive pride in the way you look, you think you’re one cut above everyone else. However, we are now living in a society where people (myself included) are becoming more and more obsessed with the way we look. Hoping to conform to society’s standards of ‘perfect‘. Is there such a thing though? I think me and you both know the answer to that. No. No one is perfect. Not even the beautiful models you see pop up on your Instagram explore page – I know along with many others I aimlessly scroll through Instagram looking at these incredible models, wondering why don’t I look like that? In reality, the models don’t even look like that. We live in a world where photo-editing and body enhancement/modification, is as easy as a few clicks on Photoshop.

I began to look into the dictionary definition of ‘Perfect‘, there were a few that popped up, the one sticking out most to me “Excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement”. Now, you find me one thing in the world, that has no fault. You can’t, can you? Imperfections, are the beauty that we see, it’s what makes us stand out. Giving us an identity. Why would you want to be a carbon copy of that Instagram model? Surely that would be boring? So then why have we become so obsessed with being ‘beautiful’ and being ‘perfect’? We have the media to thank for that. For decades, media has drilled into us, what this idea of beauty is. An idea that is constantly changing and constantly evolving. 1400-1700, the look of being full, having a rounded stomach was  IN. You wanted to look healthy, it was a sign on wealth. 1920’s, an androgynous look was most desirable; small boobs, and a straight up and down figure. 1950’s, hourglass figures are the the ones all women are trying to conform to, and one that men are lusting over too. Marilyn Monroe’s curvaceous figure is one that all women wanted. It’s what was thought to be sexy. Mid 90’s – 2000’s, big boobs, flat stomachs and thigh gaps. The coming age of the Victoria Secret model, tall, thin and with a full chest. Fast forward to now, 2010-2018. Big butts, wide hips and tiny waists. In the era of the Kardashians, the #belfies, and desire for plastic surgery. Society’s idea of beauty is one that is ever changing, it is impossible to conform to them all. So why do we try?

At the age of 6 I thought I was fat. 6. What six year old thinks they are fat. I thought I wasn’t pretty enough. I wasn’t good enough. At the mere age of 6. Whilst all of my friends were out having fun, eating ice cream, enjoying their childhood, I had the constant voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. This has been an ongoing battle, 13 years on, at the age of 19, it’s still something I battle with everyday. I’ve suffered with various mental health issues, over the past 19 years, but sticking to the topic of beauty. This is when my anxiety and possibly also my  depression comes into play. I used to (and still do on occasion) look in the mirror with disgust. Why don’t I have a tiny waist? Why don’t I have a big bum? Is it okay that I have an athletic figure? Why do I only have AA cup boobs? I’m never going to conform with the beauty standards of 2018. I’m athletic, a competitive runner, and avid gym bunny. No matter how much exercise I undertake, how much I cut my food by, how much make up I apply, how much fake tan I use, lets face it, I’m not going to be the next Kim K.

Throughout my entire childhood, I’ve had the idea of what I should look like forced upon me. It’s estimated we see around 400-600 images a day, whether that be TV ads, magazines, or Social Media. Which leads me onto my next point, before the internet was around, don’t get me wrong, society’s idea of beauty was still forced upon other people. But living in the day of the World Wide Web, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all of these standards are much readily available. We see them without even realising sometimes. These images that are telling you what ‘perfect‘ is, are the same images that are oppressing women and men for that matter. With airbrushing, skin smoothing, figure altering; these are the images that make us all think we aren’t good enough. They are stripping us of our individual qualities, that make us interesting, that make us beautiful. They are promoting unhealthy, need I mention, unrealistic body standards, making us want to conform and change ourselves. Additionally, it reinforces the fact the sexist views that women are more than our physical attributes. Our beauty is more than just Skin Deep.

I’ve come to accept that I will most likely always struggle with my mental health, particularly when it comes to not feeling good enough. Don’t get me wrong, I no longer dread leaving the house in fear that people will judge me for not being skinny or pretty enough, that is a thing of the past. But that doesn’t stop that niggling thought of self doubt in my mind. Collectively as real women we need to accept we are never going to look like a VS model or a member of the Kardashian family, without body modification such a plastic surgery, that is. We need to learn we are more than our looks, we all have such amazing other qualities, other than our curves or in my case, lack of. We all have the most incredible and individual personalities, our sense of humour, our ability to care for others, to show sympathy, the ability to lift others up, empowering each other, our passion, whether that be in science or clothes, this is what makes us beautiful.

I just wanted to round this post off by posting 2 pictures that I hated of myself when they were first taken. Both taken minutes after completing a 10k race and getting a new PB; I was on could nine. As soon as these pictures were taken, I instantly had a battle with myself, picking out ever single flaw. I thought I looked fat, I didn’t like the way my finger looked, instantly I started to think I wasn’t good enough, again. These pictures both taken of me, probably in the worse state you’ll ever see, sweaty, red, and hair like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards. But I’m happy. Full of endorphins. Whenever I finish training, or a race, I’m at my happiest. Isn’t that what matters? So who cares if I’m not societies version of perfect?

I challenge you to accept your flaws. The things you don’t like about yourself, but what makes you individual. Whether that be your stretch marks, the birth mark you have but may hate, the visible scar you may have, the face full of freckles – one that took me all my life to accept. Once you see theres more to yourself than the way you look, you’ll be happier than you ever could have imagined.

All my love,

Han xx

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