Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Last month on Channel 4’s ‘Countdown’, a guest, psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, shared a story of a study conducted about body image which I thought perfectly highlighted the psychological impact of the issue.
The study consisted of participants being told that they would be given a facial scar by a make-up artist, after which they would be asked to go into a city centre and attempt to hand out leaflets to members of the public. They would then have to repeat the same task, after the make-up artist had removed said scar. During the entirety of the study, they had no access to a mirror and after each attempt at leafletting, they were asked to feedback about their experience.
Each participant told similar stories of it being difficult to hand out leaflets with the scar, many of them only managing to hand out less than half. The participants therefore concluded that the public avoided them more and saw them as less approachable when they had a visible difference. However, without the scar, most participants managed to hand out all of their leaflets and found that they had a more positive experience with the public and their attitudes towards them. It wasn’t until after the experiment had finished that the researchers revealed that, at no point in the study did the makeup artist actually create a scar on anybody’s face.
The researchers determined that the difference in public reception was down to the psychological impacts that the thought of a facial scar had on the participants, which in turn caused their body language to be negatively impacted. They appeared less confident, hunched over and had an aura of sadness about them when they thought they had a scar. In thinking that they had something that would be publicly perceived as unappealing, they altered how they conducted themselves and that, in turn was the thing that rendered them less approachable. So, in turn, when they thought they were without the scar, they had more confidence and approached the task with more exuberance and gusto which was reflected through their more positive body language.
This study highlights the fact that body image is less about what you physically look like but instead, has more to do with how you carry yourself, your body language and how you convey your sense of self-worth. You are more attractive and inviting to others when you seem positive, confident and happy in your own skin, regardless of your appearance.
The people we meet in life can tell an awful lot about us, purely from how we feel about and how we treat ourselves. Body image is very much a psychological construct and the key to feeling more satisfied with how we look, is addressing our mentality and how we feel about ourselves. If you feel confident, you will look confident. If you feel positive, you will look positive. If you feel amazing, you will look amazing.
At the end of the day, your vibe attracts your tribe. So, we should all take the time to think less about the physicality of how you look and more about the mentality of loving ourselves regardless.
The Power of the Hashtag
The power of the hashtag is undeniable in 21st century activism and the extra power it possesses when it comes to online body confidence campaigns is second to none. There are two of these campaigns at the moment which I think are particularly powerful and resonant with many women…
Jameela Jamil - ‘I Weigh’ - http://jameelajamil.co.uk/post/171287759245/i-weigh
An Instagram image displaying the Kardashian’s and their respective weights, in kg, fuelled an anger in actress and activist, Jameela Jamil, which lead to her cultivating an amazing body image movement. She was outraged, as were many, that each woman in the image was being defined by her weight. Who is anybody to look at someone else and merely see how heavy they are?
There is far more to everyone than what the scales say. Nobody should be reduced simply, to what the weigh. The damage that images like this do to young, impressionable women and men, especially those who struggle with eating disorders and medical conditions, is unfathomable. We should not promote weight obsession. All this promotes in turn, is unhealthy relationships between individuals and their weight. It is not worth it. We are all so much more than this. An image speaks a thousand words and all these images are telling us, is how messed up society is; still defining women by their measurements and still associating beauty with one body type.
Fuck KGs. Fuck the scales. Fuck being treated differently because you don’t fit the mould of ‘perfect’
The ‘I weigh’ movement is all about redefining weight. In this sense, what you weigh is all the parts of you and aspects of your life that make you who you are. Everything that makes you happy; that you’re appreciative of; and that make you a successful person. From who you surround yourself with to your personal successes. From your life goals to your worst habits. This campaign teaches everybody that the important stuff defines you far more than your aesthetic.
Love yourself. Love your body. Love everything that makes you, you.
Come on, tell me - what do you weigh?
We are all so lucky that we are part of a generation that appreciates and celebrates women’s bodies for all that they are. More and more brands are opting to not retouch photos of models, leaving stretch marks and cellulite on display in all their glory. While I have absolutely nothing against Photoshop and Instagram filters – in my opinion, anything that makes women, and men, feel more confident in their own skin is a winner - I do think however, that a diversity of images and bodies is needed. The problems with retouching start, when edited images are all anybody sees.
Missguided have lead by example with this one. One of their latest campaigns is all about skin. Skin with scars, blemishes, conditions – you name it – is being celebrated for all it's individuality. Skin is the largest organ of the human body so everybody should feel empowered and confident regardless of how theirs looks. The campaign features women with albinism, psoriasis, birth marks, burns etc and the point is to free them from their own judgement and that of other people.
This campaign struck a nerve with me especially, because I have scarred skin myself. My back is covered in dark scarring which appeared on my skin nearly ten years ago now. The doctors couldn’t tell me what the scarring was or how it got there and so I’ve had to live with not only the scars, but also the frustration of not knowing what they are or how to deal with them. I will have to live with these scars forever now and I have accepted that. Luckily they have never really bothered me or affected my confidence – probably because they’re in a discreet place which is easily coverable. I cannot imagine though, how much more I would have struggled if they were in a more visible place.
A campaign like #InYourOwnSkin is really powerful. It teaches people to embrace their flaws and love themselves wholeheartedly. While also helping the rest of the world to view visible differences more positively. Scarred skin does not make you weird. It shouldn’t be uncomfortable to look at. Prejudice is pretty much everyone’s biggest downfall but by talking more and appreciating what makes everybody unique, we can help women everywhere embrace their bodies and feel empowered by all their beautiful flaws. Nobody should feel they have to cover up for the benefit of other people. And nobody should have to live anxiously in case somebody else makes a comment about their appearance.
So that is exactly what I am going to do from now. Embrace my scars for everything they are and no longer feel obliged to cover them. It’s time to celebrate our bodies for all they are and be happy in our own skin.