How to rebel against beauty standards

We live in a society that constantly reminds us what we should look like – beauty standards that can never be attained.  These beauty standards are driven by industries more intent on profit than self-esteem.

It’s easy to complain that ads, Photoshop, and the beauty and diet industries are responsible for creating impossible beauty standards; but if we want change, each of us needs to take some responsibility for creating a different way of thinking.

You internalise what you are exposed to on a daily basis, including images, conversations, and advertising messages.

If you want to create a different world, you need to start behaving differently.

That’s where rebellion comes in.  When you reveal beauty standards for what they are – unrealistic ideals – you open up different ways to view beauty.

You’ve internalised the beauty standards simply because you’ve got used to them – you see them everywhere, with few alternatives presented.

Rebelling against beauty standards means showing that you can never be, and don’t aspire to be like an arbitrary ideal.  It means showing the diversity of who you are not only in looks but in personality.

Here are some ways that you can rebel against unrealistic beauty standards and feel great about your body too:

#1 Wear exactly what you want without following ‘the rules’

There’s so much guidance about what you should and shouldn’t wear for your body shape; it often feels like you’re dressing according to the ‘fashion rules’.

When you push back against the ‘rules’, you realise the only person you need to consult when choosing what to wear is YOU.  All that matters is that you like your clothes and enjoy wearing them.  Don’t let yourself be put into a box by fashion stylists, fashion magazines or whoever!

If you want to know more about how to rebel against the fashion rules and create your own style, check out:

4 wardrobe tips that will make you more body confident,

6 body shaming behaviours that will surprise you

5 things I did to love my body.

#2 Stop airbrushing your photos before posting them on social media

If you don’t like Photoshopped images in magazines or on-line, but alter your own photos before posting them, you’re perpetuating the problem of unrealistic imagery.

Your friends and family are used to seeing you in the flesh without any airbrushing or touch-ups, so why do you need to alter images of yourself?

Altered images on social media can have a damaging effect on body image and self-esteem. This is not only for the person posting them, but the individuals viewing them.  You can find out more about the impact of imagery on social media in The impact of social media on body image and Is a selfie healthy for body image?

#3 Proudly go out without make-up

One of the things I’ve got into the habit of doing is to go out without make-up.  Not only is it better for my skin, but my body image gets an automatic boost too.

I’ve discovered that I can still feel confident without my make-up for camouflage.  I’m not a lesser woman without it.  I choose whether to wear it, but don’t feel obliged to just to satisfy an arbitrary beauty standard.

Show your friends you are not afraid to be seen without make-up, and you could be on your way to starting a no make-up rebellion!

#4 Stop buying products that you feel you should to look a certain way

A few years ago, I bought Baby Skin, a beauty product promising pore-free skin.  The in-store promotion made me very aware that 1) I didn’t have pore free skin and 2) I should have!

Looking back now, it seems ridiculous that I thought I should have skin like a new born baby’s, but that’s the power of marketing tactics used by many beauty companies.

There are plenty of beauty products on the market, but not all of them will leave you feeling inferior or inadequate.  Any product that creates feelings of insecurity or inadequacy is not worth buying.  In all likelihood, the product won’t deliver on its promise (the Baby Skin didn’t by the way – no surprises there), and you’ll feel even worse about your looks.

I’m not saying that rebelling against beauty standards means you stop buying any beauty products, but I’d recommend cutting out the ones that don’t make you feel good about yourself.  Go for the products that you enjoy using and aren’t using marketing ploys that create feelings of inadequacy.  Look for the brands that focus on the experiential aspects of using the product (the smell, the texture, the impact on your well-being).

#5 Stop apologising or joking about your weight

It’s not unusual in conversation for women to apologise or joke about their weight.  Weight based conversations have become the norm because we’ve internalised the thin beauty ideal.

Discussions about losing weight serve to re-inforce this limited view of beauty.  In order to make body diversity the norm we need to drop the ‘fat talk’.  When you stop engaging in these kinds of conversations, you set a new standard in your peer groups encouraging more meaningful and fulfilling discussions.

#6 No more guilt talk about food

Closely linked to ‘fat talk’ is the guilt talk associated with food.  You know, things like, “Oh, I really shouldn’t eat that, it’s so naughty!”  Or I can’t eat that on my diet.”

This talk also reinforces the ‘thin ideal’.  We all need food to survive.  Food is food, it’s neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.  I’m not saying that eating nutritious foods isn’t a good strategy for maintaining a healthy body, but constantly talking about food as if it’s the enemy to achieving the ‘perfect body’ is not good for your body image.

Refusing to make food a constant topic of conversation will help you take a positive stand against the thin beauty ideal.

Rebelling promotes beauty diversity AND makes you feel good about your body

When you take these kind of actions, you promote greater beauty diversity.

Imagine if we all started to flood the internet with unaltered photos, they would become the ‘new norm’.  Suddenly we’d begin seeing what women really look like and become more accepting of different shapes, sizes and features.

Plus, when you rebel against the beauty standards, it has an amazing impact on how you feel about your body and looks.  Here’s why:

1) You’ll discover the world doesn’t end – people are unlikely to laugh and point at you because you aren’t wearing make-up or using the latest beauty products. Your worst fears are very seldom realised when you stop covering up or concealing parts of your body or looks.  Facing your fears head on boosts body confidence;

2) Going against what we’re told we should do (the rules) feels really good – For women the burden of expectation about what we should and shouldn’t do with our appearance can be a heavy one. Giving yourself permission to do what you want and to hell with society’s unwritten rules sets you free;

3) When you allow yourself to go against the grain of society’s ridiculous beauty expectations, sub-consciously you are accepting yourself exactly as you are without make-up, Instagram filters, beauty products, and calorie counting.  Acceptance is the foundation for better body image, so anything that you can do to focus on accepting your body and looks will boost your body confidence.

In a nutshell

Taking action that goes against the grain of the beauty standards is something we can all do to help create a more diverse view of beauty.  You don’t need to do all of the things that I’ve mentioned to rebel (or any of them – make up your own). Just choosing one thing and acting on it consistently will make a difference.  As you rebel against the beauty standards you’ll also give your body image a great boost too.

If you’d like to work with me to discover more ways to develop a body positive attitude, the best way to find out more is to check out my coaching programme, The Body Confidence Journey.

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