A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: I do not need the media to tell me that I am not good enough

I do not often hear news that excites me in a positive way. But, last week was a welcome exception.

I was busy driving when Eye Witness News came on the radio. I am a person of the male persuasion and thus struggle to drive and listen attentively at the same time. With one half-deaf ear I heard a clipping about some or other fashion house banning too thin models from taking part in their campaigns. I could not hear the name of the fashion house, but was immediately intrigued. I went on-line and found this article, which I believe is related to that bulletin.

Wow, I thought, this is about bloody time!

As a Counsellor, a huge part of my work consists of helping people who struggle with a lack of self-confidence, a low self-esteem and self-worth issues. These issues can have serious negative consequences for how we present ourselves to the outside world, how society interacts with us and on the outcome of some our endeavours.

What we think of how we look can have a significant impact on how we think of ourselves. Most people are not happy with some aspects of their outward appearance and this negatively impacts their thoughts on what they have to offer life in general, in relationships and to themselves. The media is not doing us any favours in this regard. We are constantly bombarded by pre-conceived and well-orchestrated media campaigns about what perfection is. We are being brainwashed to buy those falsehoods as truths about how we fall short of the ideal. Their concept of perfection is sold to us as the norm. Comparing ourselves to this image, does us no favours. It makes us feel bad about how we look and contributes to our belief that we are not good enough and thus not worthy of what we are striving for in life.

I personally do not own a television and hardly ever page through a magazine. I am very selective about which movies I watch. I stopped doing these things because I struggle with advertisements, and media in general, prescribing what I need to look like and dress like in order to be acceptable. I am good enough at beating myself up about what I perceive to be my imperfections and shortcomings, I do not need anyone else to do that for me. I am especially offended by the “thin is perfect” for women and “muscles are magic” perceptions of perfection we are being manipulating to buy into.

I recently watched a YouTube clip of some talent show, like America’s Got Talent, or something like that, where one of the judges informed a competitor that he looks like a star and can go a long way. The implication was that his talent was secondary to his looks. I was flabbergasted and it made me feel sad.

I love it when people are successful while not buying into what the media expects them to be. I have great respect for people like Adele, adore Ed Sheeran and listen whenever P!ink opens her mouth. They do not fit the media profile of perfection, yet are three of the most successful artists in the world. They are living proof that, if you, like them, are talented and know it, you do not have to look a certain way to be successful. You do not have to be moulded by media perception, you can rise, not only above that media mind-set, but also above most of your peers.

I constantly ask myself why artist need to take their clothes off in order to sing. My understanding is that the voice is not inhibited by clothing, or has that changed since I last sang? I know we all love singing in the shower, but I do not think that means that we HAVE to be naked to string a few notes together.

I am extremely excited to see a trend developing toward fuller figure models and to see the odd actress refusing to lose weight in order to get a role. See this article on Kirsten Dunst. and this one on Jennifer Lawrence. This movement is happening FAR too slowly to my liking, but progress in this regard is gratefully acknowledged. I also like the idea that actress, Rebel Wilson launched her own plus size clothing range.

This, I see, as messages that we are just human and can feel good about ourselves. We can all celebrate our individuality despite unrealistic portrayals of what is okay.

Now, do not get me wrong. I am not anti-health. I believe in the value of regular exercise, lots of water and eating more than enough fruit and vegetables. A healthy body harbours a healthy mind. Seeing that my career is about the mind, I spend a lot of time and energy in getting my clients to care for their bodies as part of the process of getting a healthier mind. But, we need to be kind to ourselves and learn to love ourselves, without putting ridiculous pressure on ourselves to be what we are not or what society expects us to be. After all, part of the reasoning behind Kering and LVMH’s decision about “fuller” models, if that is what you can call it, is the health risk associated to being so incredibly thin.

We owe it to ourselves to have a positive self-image. This will also help our children to grow up with a positive self-regard, to face life on the front foot and to engage with life positively. This way, we can give society the best gift ever - a generation with a strong belief in themselves and who love themselves. It is only when we love ourselves, that we can love others enough to want to make a difference in the world and create earth to be a better place for all.

The great news is that we can work on our self-image and our deep-seated negative beliefs about ourselves. We can take our power back and become self-actualised human beings. Sometimes we just need a bit of help. There is help available. All you need to do is ask the right people.

Cate Moss apparently once said: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” Well, it is obvious that she has not tasted my malva pudding yet! Enjoy it with custard and ice cream, I say!