Many of us strive for perfection, but when it comes to your bodies, do we even know what that is?

 

The ‘perfect body’ is a concept that you can’t escape from, yet it has the power to destroy self-confidence, and it sadly continues to be the ‘#bodygoals’ of many young people.

Essentially it is a campaign driven by the media, building hype, a following and with coverage so widespread that it could be regarded as a major concern in the modern world. This body obsession is further promoted by celebrities who seem to constantly post carefully filtered photos of themselves in effectively nothing more than their birthday suits. It is now a daily given, when scrolling through your Instagram feed, or Twitter timeline that some ‘relatively known’ C-lister is showing off the results of their rigorous, but pricey personal training, which then sparks the #thinspiration and #thighgap trends.

Yet ironically, these concepts of the ‘perfect body’ are spiralling further out of control and becoming more and more unrealistic, detached realities. The celebrity culture promotes this body-image obsession. It is plastered across the internet, TV screens, glossy magazines and gossip columns, and gives such a contrived picture of what constitutes the perfect body that a lot of young people feel it is the only way to be, going to extreme lengths to achieve it. This is all happening despite the ideal body actually being a mystery.

Body shaming is a trend that sits side by side with the perfect body. Body shaming sadly is now the norm. An inkling of cellulite, or a hint of bone are treated the same. Nichola Rumsey in The Oxford Handbook of the Psychology of Appearance notes that the media, ‘helps to shape beauty ideals by showing certain body sizes [as] beautiful and desirable’. People can now be deemed too fat or too skinny; however, the established ‘desirable’ body types are completely abstract and purely opinion based.

If we take the physique of the impossibly slender Victoria’s Secret models, realistically, it is virtually unattainable. Their body is their job. They have to keep to an extremely strict diet, lifestyle and exercise routine to keep getting work. Angel Alessandra Ambrosio compared it to working as ‘an athlete. All your mind, all your everything goes into it’. Yet these women are body shamed for promoting unrealistic ideals to impressionable young girls. Similarly, the bodies of female bodybuilders or weightlifters are also realistically unattainable for most of us, for exactly the same reasons.

As well as this saturated body focus, there has also been a surge in ‘clean’ eating, juicing and detoxing which has catapulted many health-conscious chefs into the public eye, and encouraged things like celebrity nutrition plans and fitness promotions. The result is a controversy of a different kind. Now it’s not only the curvy girl who’s criticised, but smaller girls too who are deemed ‘too skinny’, while ‘anorexic’ has become a casual insult. The ‘skinny-shaming’ trend has sparked outrage with numerous people speaking out on it, and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini who has been subject to this type of shaming argued that ‘the other side of body shaming is skinny shaming … how often do you hear someone say, “give that girl a sandwich” or “she needs a good feed” ‘. Every woman and man are judged, whether they are a size 6 or 16. Cheryl continues by accusing the media of wanting to dictate our thoughts on how, ‘one roll of back fat is disgusting and not having a thigh gap … means you are ugly’. But then, when a protruding bone is showing, you are immediately marked as gaunt, ill, or a bag of bones. One can argue that society has simply been driven to the ridiculous.

Skinny is just as cruel a word as fat. Emma Woof notes how words are ‘batted around in the media quite casually’ with thinness most frequently described as; ‘skinny, angular, emaciated, bony, skeletal, lollipop-head’. Comments about being too skinny, accusations of not eating and going to the gym too often, can hurt as much as being called fat, hefty, or meaty. These remarks are made offhand, but are hurtful, and have the power to ruin someone’s self-esteem. They can cause a person to become body-conscious even if their image has never been a problem before. There are endless memes claiming ‘men like something to grab onto’, ‘curves are sexy’, and no one likes a skeleton. Surely though, no man’s tastes are the same and a woman should have the right to determine how she wants to look without being dictated? People are built and shaped differently. It would be a very shallow, bland world if everyone was the same size and shape.

The perfect body is a completely abstract and changing concept that remains vague, precisely because people’s idea of what ‘perfect’ constitutes differs. For this reason, it is absurd to debate the ideal body type.