As we approach the end of January it has occurred to me more so this month than ever, the crisis of comparison that young women are living in.
Being the month of new year’s resolutions, it is common for people to have tried out new fitness regimes and new diets. Although I myself am not exactly an advocate for new year’s resolutions (and especially diet culture), I can see the appeal of a concept centred on people making positive changes in their lives. However, in a bid to improve one’s physical health there becomes clear the vulnerability of one’s, especially young women’s, mental health.
As a 20-year-old woman I witness how other women my age, of similar age, and even much older than myself constantly compare their bodies to those they see plastered over social media and other publications on a day-to-day basis. People have become obsessed by the unattainable, and as a result they fail to fully appreciate themselves and their own achievements. It seems that it is no longer enough to eat a balanced diet, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. There is the ideal body type that is constantly presented to us, and girls and women will find themselves dissatisfied unless they achieve this.
The sad and, in fact, frustrating part of this problem is that in issues of body positivity all consideration of relativity is ignored. Never mind women having naturally different body types; women and girls are failing to give themselves credit by comparing themselves to celebrities who have dieticians, personal trainers, and — let’s face it, for reality and social media stars — not much else to do than meal prep and exercise (if we want to be really honest with ourselves, we should add plastic surgeons to the list). The average woman’s lifestyle could never accommodate such an all-consuming commitment to physical appearance.
Perhaps it sounds harsh, but this is why I find myself constantly disappointed by the young women around me who compare themselves to these ‘public figures’ and put themselves down in relation to a photo posted on Instagram. This is such a blatantly unhealthy mental attitude to have! Negatively comparing ourselves to anyone else is no way to approach self-improvement, especially where body image is concerned.
So, with the first month of people’s resolutions coming to a close, it is important to recognise all of your personal achievements, regardless of what others may be doing around you. What we see on our screens is so far removed from reality. Improving our physical health should go hand-in-hand with improving our mental health; by no means should our physical appearance cause sacrifice to our mental health.
The negative impact of social media on women’s body image has been widely discussed in modern feminism. A young woman like myself can only hope that other women will begin to see through the illusions of social media, and that I’ll see far fewer of my friends fall victim to the social media plague of body comparisons.