Perhaps these days it’s a good question to consider. You can find some surprising practices studying the social tenets of beauty in various cultures.
Centuries ago, some places in China practiced foot binding where young girls feet were broken and tightly bound. Why? Because “lotus” feet were considered more beautiful.
And I remember the Masai tribe when I visited Kenya and the long-stretched earlobes that are considered to be a mark of beauty.
The Ethiopian Karo tribe views scars on the stomachs of women to be marks of beauty. Girls as young as 12 are slashed with razor blades in Ethiopian scarring ceremony that sees youngsters cut to be “beautiful.”
The Kayan women in Thailand purposefully stretch their necks, adorning them with more and more coils of heavy brass rings.
Some of these practices seem unbelievable. But is America really so different? Our nation has come to glorify skinny bodies. Unlike the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe from the 1950s, models today are often svelte and sometimes even skeletal.
Years ago, I worked with middle school girls in a support group. They would come into the room laughing, so full of life, teasing each other. They came in beautiful shapes and sizes with all kinds of glorious talents and interests.
The one thing that always seem to come up, however, is their common insecurity. I didn’t have to ask them questions about body image, for all too often, it was a major topic of conversation. What saddens me most as I probed a little deeper was their deeply embedded body-shaming paradigm. Almost all of the girls in the group considered themselves “too fat” or inadequate in some physical way.
Body dysmorphia is a mental health disorder that can begin in adolescence. It involves an obsessive focus on what one perceives as flaws. And all too often body dysmorphia leads to one of the many eating disorders out there, disorders that are growing exponentially in America.
These disorders are incredibly complicated and often require treatment guided by a team. A team is one of the best multidisciplinary approaches, a holistic theory where professionals across multiple disciplines dieticians, physicians, therapists, and medical staff, are involved in the healing process. The team coordinates a plan for patient recovery.
How do we stop this epidemic? Why do such promising human beings suffer so heavily from depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem? More and more recent research shows that eating disorders are not so much about eating as they are about unreasonable expectations and societal tenets. The devastation of these standards of beauty is also evident in drug abuse and self-harm.
For decades we’ve seen how magazines and movies promote a thin ideal for a body image. But now we are also seeing the impact of the many social media platforms. This is a most urgent problem, not that social media is to blame, but there seems to be a strong association.
Seeking therapy is critical for anyone who may have body dysmorphia, but all too often, it is difficult for a person to recognize the development of unhealthy thoughts and patterns. Please be aware regarding relatives and friends and even yourself. Know that skilled therapists at InMindOut are here to help. Give us a call.
And lastly, isn’t it about time we free ourselves as women and promote more fully the idea that all women are beautiful? Not everyone has to like skinny jeans.