At a younger age than we care to admit, the changing bodies of adolescents are the subject of undue scrutiny. The intrusive discussions come in different forms, sometimes hushed, other times loud, but it is incessant. For all of the attention paid, and comments made, it would seem that The Eye of Providence has no more important matters to watch over.
“Yuh ain’t see she getting breast” …
Societal pressures can have a huge impact on a person's confidence, self worth and mental health.
The way you see, feel and think about your body, and engage with your body as a result of your perception, thoughts and feelings, make up your Body Image. Your Body Image is made a priority quite early, as something that will form a necessary part of your experiences in your life. Our body images range between positive and negative experiences; oftentimes, it is a combination of both. The developmental stages of a healthy Body Image and Body Acceptance go hand in hand.
Being around people who actually love and accept you will allow you to build a solid foundation for self confidence, body positivity, and Body Image experiences.
Body Acceptance is neither simply loving nor hating your body. It is rooted in accepting your body and appreciating what it can do, that is vital to developing a healthy body image.
Your perspective on body image is influenced by internal (e.g. personality) and external (e.g. social environment, culture) factors. Many of us have internalized external beauty standards from a young age. We often do not acknowledge that people are unique and feed into harmful societal comparison practices.
Telling someone to focus on what their body can do and not its appearance feels as disingenuous and just as unrealistic as expecting all bodies to look the same or have the same traits to fit a few arbitrary standards. Although, there is something in the notion of paying more attention to what you have over what you wish you had. With that perspective, Body Acceptance and even Body Positivity are steps in the right direction.
Remember that everyone has a different body shape, size and appearance. How you are able to care for your body also impacts your body image. While doing what you can to care for your body, remember that Body Image sits within the larger systems of inequality and discrimination. When claiming our bodies, it is helpful for us to be cognizant of the broader system; the beliefs in the s-periority of wh-teness, fatphobia, colourism, anti-blackness, ableism, the patriarchal gender binary, capitalism and post-colonial Caribbean identity.
Understanding what informs our Body Image and body ideals can help us see to what extent we can opt out of them and challenge them.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) uses a framework of a positive approach to sexuality, healthy sexual development, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the development of the human body. Encouraging a healthy body image means teaching that the changes and differences in our bodies are normal, and how you feel about your body can affect your well-being, self-image and quality of life and that how you feel about your body is influenced by your various social and political identities which combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege.
CSE has a fundamental part to play in truly transforming structures of power and privilege.
A transformed Eye may be of better use.
Sources & Resources:
IPPF Framework for CSE via: https://www.ippf.org/sites/default/files/ippf_framework_for_comprehensive_sexuality_education.pdf
Body Image and Its Role in Sexual Health, Journal of Psychosexual Health via: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2631831819890778
A simple guide to great Sex-Ed: How to talk about Body Image via: https://splitbanana.co.uk/blog/2020/11/12/sex-education-guide-body-image