As a young girl growing up in the 70s, there was no divergent viewpoint on female body image. Skinny was the ideal. There was no other option. Woman of all ages spent the better part of their lives trying to be thinner.

 

My mother’s colon cancer was likely inflamed by the appetite suppressant pills she regularly subjected herself to in search of a smaller frame. They were the norm back then, much like skin bleach.

 

Fast forward to 2022, even in an age of posing, hyper-perfection, and lifestyle curation, I’m encouraged by the strong push for diversity and body acceptance. Besides, there’s only so much that make-up, wigs, weaves, and even filters can do. We all wish we woke up Instagram ready, but Nature’s more concerned with function over form or any kind of fancy for that matter.

 

I caught a recent episode of Red Table Talk where Queen Latifah talks about her mission to change the narrative around obesity and overweight. Breaking through Hollywood and the entertainment scene as a ‘bigger’ woman, Black at that, she has first-hand experience of the prejudice. And she’s stood her ground. Power, girl!  

 

No contention there. But having a higher body mass index (BMI) is not necessarily unhealthy.

 

What touched me most about the discussion was the healthy vs unhealthy narrative. Look, there’s no doubt that there are health risks to being overweight. No contention there. But having a higher body mass index (BMI) is not necessarily unhealthy. And while I have no desire to carry an extra 20kgs to be ‘fuller figured’ – both pregnancies proved that extra weight is a strain that I can’t handle – I can testify that you can be skinny and unhealthy, very unhealthy.

 

As always, we must come to the middle. Moderation is the antidote. Health is far more complex. I believe it’s a combination of balance and acceptance. Your body can be in the best shape, but if your mind is toxic, chances are that you’ll suffer from body dysmorphia anyway and never be satisfied. You can never exercise or starve yourself taller. The DNA dice throws us unique traits. Period.

 

Yet, there are reports of teenagers flocking for plastic surgery in increasing numbers to look like the flavour of the month celebrity or superstar. What a tragedy for self-acceptance.

 

Men can be podgy, fat, and bald and still be considered ‘sexy’. Mxm.

 

We regularly hear of people driven to suicide as they were ostracised, ridiculed, not accepted, the list goes on. Heck, as a grown woman, I can feel the pressure. J-Lo and Halle Berry looking like fierce foxes in their 50s and automatically, the bar has been heightened for all of us. I’ve asked before, what are humans supposed to look like at a particular age? And who created those narratives? Men can be podgy, fat, and bald and still be considered ‘sexy’. Mxm.

 

Anita Roddick revolutionised the beauty industry with The Body Shop back in the 70s. One of her most infamous advertising campaigns in 1997 was the ‘Ruby’ campaign. ‘There are three billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do,’ it read, next to a picture of Ruby – a size 16 red-haired doll. At that time, I was in my prime, no need to worry about size 16, but it stayed with me.

 

Why do people want to conform? It comes down to basic self-esteem. The less you have of it, the more you want to be like ‘others’.

 

We are raising two children who are as different as they are similar. This morning, KG said he wants a dress and that “at school, girls can wear boys’ pants but boys can’t wear dresses”. Keen observation from a 7 y/o. All I can do is affirm their unique strengths and celebrate their bond as brothers to eliminate any sense of competition for my affection, attention, or love.

 

There’s nothing more powerful than confidence. That deep-rooted, strength of self that percolates from the inside, the aroma that fills any space one enters, no need for bells, balloons or likes. One just is. And the Universe bows to pay homage.

 

Dear hearts, conforming is a curse. May you learn to love yourself, to accept all the unique features of your physical body, your emotional story, your flaws, and ‘awes’. We can never be the same. We should never aspire to be the same.

 

“Whatever you do, be different – that was the advice my mother gave me, and I can’t think of better advice for an entrepreneur. If you’re different, you will stand out.” Anita Roddick

 

“Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing.” Tara Brach