Questions other than “Am I bikini body ready?” to ask yourself this summer

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by Zainab Boladale

As women, we are expected to have body confidence issues and while it is true that a lot of us do, what about those of us who actually don’t? Why are we being told that we should? It’s obvious that we are perceived as “the weaker fragile sex” by society and are expected to strive for perfection. It seems that society cares about us so much that there will always be someone ready to point out our supposed “problem areas”. The number one offender being, that’s right you’ve guessed it, the media with their “oh so brilliant” strategic marketing. What I mean by this is that in the last few years, companies targeting female customers are using different techniques to sell us their products. Rather than selling the product for what it does, they are selling it as a product that will actually help us improve our problem areas by pointing out that it should be a problem area. These adverts subtly instil the feeling of body shame when in fact there should be no reason to feel ashamed about what your body naturally does or looks like. I get really annoyed when I see adverts that display a healthy size 16 woman going to a size 8, despite the fact that she was perfectly fine at her initial size. Or the recent “Are you beach body ready?” advert by protein world that suggest that all our bodies should look like the woman in the poster, otherwise it shouldn’t be shown.

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As for women who actually show or feel confident in their bodies, we are quickly branded as “vain”or “stuck up bitches”. Personally, I 90% feel confident in my body. Of course, there are days where I criticise certain aspect of my body, like my far from iron flat stomach or my kit kat bar chunky thighs but there are days, weeks, months even where I can appreciate that all of these things add to my unique shape and I have no desire to lose an insane amount of weight or volunteer my body for the hunger games just because I don’t look like a Victoria Secrets model. If anything, i’m happy looking like I know all of Betty Crocker’s secret recipes. Body love is something that every woman needs and it genuinely makes me mad that magazines and adverts target our insecurities not because they care about our “health” or want to make us love our bodies more than we already do. There are so many natural, unique and beautiful body shapes in the world so it’s crazy to think that there is one standardized perception of what is considered beautiful. Being aware of two cultural ideas of beauty, Africans seeing perfection in a rounder woman, and Europeans seeing beauty in a slender women, has made me realise that no matter how you look you will always be judged. Body love is an important thing and I think as long as you love your body and know how to work all your best features, then what anyone else thinks shouldn’t matter. So girls, this summer instead of asking ourselves “Am I bikini body ready?” ask yourselves “Is that bikini ready for your body?”.

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How social media affects our self image

by Bronwyn O’Neill

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Social media plays a huge part in our lives, especially in our teenage years and into our early twenties. I decided to look at how social media controls our self-esteem because of a famous confession revealed last week.

Kylie Jenner, one of the world’s most fashionable teenagers, has admitted to getting lip fillers. Although it was probably one of the worst kept secrets out there, it does raise the issue of how social media can affect us. In the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kylie discusses her own self-consciousness, an issue that has only been heightened due to social media attention.

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So, if one of the most influential teenagers can be affected so badly be social media, how can us regular plebs not be?

Everyone, male and female, has insecurities. Whether it be weight, height, scars, noses or lips, I highly doubt anyone wakes up and thinks “perfection.” (Except maybe Beyoncé because she did in fact wake up like that.)

On a serious note, there hasn’t been a year when we hear about another suicide because of social media. Of course there are bullies attached to these deaths but the problem may also be that we put our most “perfect” self online. Every image is scrutinised, edited and filtered before we make it our profile picture on any social media site. The fear when we receive a notification saying someone has tagged you in pictures stems from wanting to seem flawless online. Due to this, cyber bullying is such a huge issue and such an attack on our self-esteem. If our ideal self is called fat and ugly then what are we really?

Teenagers look too much at unrealistic body images, photos that are photoshopped and edited to make the celebrity look perfect. Even when the images aren’t edited to such an intense standard, most celebrities take pictures in full make-up and hair, done by professionals that we can never stand up to.

This is not just a female issue, men also have to measure up to a certain body image. Men fall under just as much scrutiny and also suffer from negative body issues. We are all victims to this. We all put too much thought into how many likes our pictures get on instagram or how many followers we have on twitter. We feed into it and because of that, so many people face eating disorders and mental health issues.

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I think it’s time we embrace our insecurities and learn to love them. Easier said than done, I suppose.

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A Story of Body Acceptance

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by Bronwyn O’Neill

Since I was around twelve or thirteen, I realised my body would never fit the stick figure body type. It wasn’t something I was over excited about. In my eyes, tall, skinny girls were the most beautiful things ever. However being five foot three, I knew I would never reach the tall part of my dream girl.

I struggled with being curvy when every “pretty” girl I knew was so tiny. To me, that body standard was the norm. And that was the only figure that meant anything. They were the beautiful ones and I would never reach that.

One of the prettiest girls I knew was a tiny size six, with an A-cup bra size. By the time I was thirteen I was wearing a D-cup bra. I used to get so nervous before going to get a bra fitting. What if I had gone up in size? The usual answer was yes.

I would get so upset when the lady who measured me told me my new size. Afterwards, I would have to trawl through ugly, beige bras. Every time I went shopping in my early teens, I would look at the gorgeous bras that were aimed towards A and B cups. Envy would make my blood boil. Why couldn’t they make them three or four sizes bigger?

The larger bra size did not cater towards young girls. They were either too maternal or too sexy. Neither of which I felt at the age of thirteen. So, I donned my beige bra and glared enviously at the pretty floral bras.

Having a fuller bust made it difficult to do PE. Sports bras barely fit over my chest, so I tended to get moody around the time of exercise. For five out of the six years of my secondary school life, my PE teacher was male. So, they would never understand my pain at holding my boobs while jogging the length of the gym.

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Another thing that made me uncomfortable about having a fuller figure was the leering looks. At the age of fifteen I ventured into the big city of Dublin for my Transition Year work experience. I was wearing a blouse or something professional for my first day of “work”. I innocently asked the gruff bus driver for a child’s ticket into the city centre. His gaze dropped from my face to my breasts and asked me what age I was.

My whole face drained of colour and I had never been so nervous whilst I replied with a dry mouth my age. He shrugged and gave me my ticket. But I was still shaken until I arrived at the building where I was to work for five days. Yes, I was fifteen and yes I had boobs and hips. My top wasn’t inappropriate, a problem I had with most tops. It was not low cut but still my boobs were brought into question.

Of course, I thought that if I was smaller this would never happen. If I fitted that beautiful model body, I would never get unwanted attention like that. Only boys my own age would think I was stunning. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

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Another part of having a “curvy” body type, are wide hips. These are still a challenge whilst trying to squeeze into seats in lecture halls. However, the first time I really noticed this was on a swing. Yes, I was on a swing. I was visiting my little cousins and I was playing outside with them. I tried to fit into the swing seat, a seat I had fitted comfortably into only a few months prior. My hips were squeezed into the now narrow seat.

So, my hips had widened and how I had to face it. In school, trying to squeeze into narrow desks was a struggle. At times I would hit tables with my hips or my ass and try to play it off. I could fake joke about it, except I didn’t find it funny. Still everyone was so tiny and skinny, no boobs, no hips. It was still the perfect body to me.

It wasn’t until around a year ago when I finally got comfortable with my body. Unfortunately, it took me this long because in my opinion popular culture doesn’t promote curvy women. In any tv show or film, the main character is a stunning stick figure girl. Any curvy women, like Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian, are mostly ridiculed for their body type. Maybe because they are sexualised in the public eye. I don’t know. However, I felt this negative view from a young age.

Getting into a positive mind set about my body was difficult. However I now am more comfortable with my curves. Of course, I still think that the skinny, model figure is the most beautiful body type. Although, now I am happy that I don’t fit into that body type. My curves make me who I am, they make me unique.

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Now we need to make the curvy, fuller sized girl a positive thing. Not a sexualised body type, especially for young girls. And to end on a cheesy note, to  all the young girls out there struggling with their body image, whether it be you feel too skinny or too heavy, you are still beautiful and you need to love yourself no matter what.