I attended Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model Live on Sunday (http://www.bntmlive.com/) and had a wonderful time. However amidst all the fashion, fake tan and freebies, I found at least 2 stands selling ‘slimming aid’ drinks. Now whilst this is all well and good, I couldn’t help but think of the young girls attending who see all of the models and celebrities, then look at themselves and feel inadequate. Personally I know I’m a decent size. I have a big bum, but am quite thin everywhere else. However I’m not a size 4 or 6, and if I were younger and perhaps a bit more impressionable, this might leave me feeling like I was too fat. Whilst there has been an rise in the campaign for real bodies for real women, there is still a pressure hidden just below the surface for us to all be 6 ft, size 6, big-breasted glamazons.
I remember when I was 15, 16 years old I felt very insecure of myself and my body, wishing I were prettier and had bigger boobs. Luckily I didn’t even think of doing anything drastic, but for a lot of girls the pressure gets too much. Self harm, eating disorders and depression can all arise from low self-esteem and distortion of body image. Figures from beat, the national eating disorder charity (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/) say that an estimated 1.6 million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders of some sort, and this is just the ones which have been reported. These figures show that as a nation, and indeed on a global scale, we are telling people that they aren’t good enough if they aren’t skinny. This is wrong, and we need to move towards a society where women (and men!) of all shapes and sizes are celebrated and given equal respect and encouragement to succeed.
I myself felt slightly intimidated by all the models and gorgeous people milling about ExCel London, but I’ve got to a stage where I’m fairly confident of myself and I can realise I’m good enough to do whatever I want, as long as I put my mind to it. I wasn’t told this by anyone though, I’ve suffered years of bullying throughout secondary school, and mild social anxiety which still affects me sometimes. This is why we need to improve the personal social education received by young people in schools. Public speaking workshops, lessons to explore your strengths and how you can develop them, and motivational speakers would all help teenagers to gain confidence and also begin to work out what they want to do in life. Until then, spread the love, don’t hate