Beauty standards for women have become unsustainable and unachievable. In a publication from the Social Issues Research Centre it was determined that the current image of a women presented to you as a standard for beauty is possible for less than 5% of the population. If you start out knowing that what you are going for is impossible, that can’t be too good for your confidence. The study goes on to say that we often spend time looking at ourselves because we’re concerned we do not measure up and that 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
Another paper written on the perception of Korean females on body image argues that Korean women are very critical about their body image and have lower self-esteem than American women do. This is heavily tied to media but difficult to point to any one source. Being from Korea, I can agree that there is a lot of pressure for women to meet a beauty standard that isn’t attainable naturally.
So, where does that lead? A very negative view of yourself and how you look and what looking like the model in the ad will do for you. You have to be that and meet the standard. You obsess about it, and may even decide to take extreme measures, as I once did. You can read about the experience that I had in my book The Go Standard.
It’s unrealistic to think that these advertisements will go away. The thought of becoming an Instagram model and having hundreds of thousands of followers is real anxiety for a lot of women trying to make it in various industries, including fitness. Even fitness has distorted the view of what a woman “should” look like in terms of body composition and appeal.
What can you do to have a more positive body image? Well, having been a competitor and having gone through my own struggles, I can tell you that convincing yourself of a positive image is difficult. It means taking steps to build your confidence and create a realistic image of yourself in your mind. That means creating a strong mind-body connection. Here are several tips for you to get started and change your mind about fitness and beauty standards – This is part of the Go Standard Mindset, which I am happy to say is not about being a cover model or being a photoshoot ready fitgirl.
Understand first that fitness and nutrition is about health. That is beautiful! If you want to feel good and look good, create a strong positive connection with fitness and nutrition. That’s not easy, but its about how you feel not how you look. Create a plan for clean eating and sustainable fitness (as in, a program that you can keep doing that isn’t burning you out) and become regular in writing down how you feel at the beginning of the day and end of the day. Celebrate feeling energized, refreshed, and clear as these are the real goals of a positive connection to your body image. When you feel good, it’s easier to believe that your hard work is paying off. Health is wealth, and doing your best every day, getting a little better every day is incredible. You are doing so much for yourself, and you need to celebrate that.
Beauty in the long-term is more important that short-term. The emphasis is on long-term. What you are now is not what you will be in 20, 30, or 50 years. You want to keep as much of your strength and energy as you can as you age, right? Often, the kind of effort needed to look like the model online or on television involves unsustainable fitness and dieting. It’s not too healthy, but it does create the desired look. That’s only skin deep. The last think you want to do is go too hard too fast because that’s what you’ve been told works and damage joints, tendons, and even organs in the long-term. Short-term beauty can equal long-term pain. Understand that fitness and nutrition are an ongoing process, not a 3-month boot camp where you eat nothing but protein and lift heavy weights in very unusual ways that place a lot of pressure on your joints. Short-term pain may see easy, but over years and years the chance of injury and medical issues is far greater than slow, steady progress, gradual increases, and a healthy, clean diet with a lot of variety.
It’s you versus you. Tell yourself that it isn’t about the girl in the photo or the ad. That is her job. She has teams of people helping her, a full-time staff and trainer, make-up and hair stylists, assistants, and her photos go to a team of graphic designers and digital media experts for revisions and editing. In short, she’s not you. And she can’t be you. You have no idea what she thinks of feels, she’s just an image that you are placing priority on becoming.
Focus on you. This is your life, your routine, and your path. Make it your fitness journey, not someone else’s. The only person you need to compete with and challenge is you. That’s an internal challenge to balance your mind and your body together, not to see how skinny you can be or how much fat your can burn in 24 hours. Steady, sustained progress and clear attainable goals. Your image is your own, and accepting that can be difficult at times, but when it’s you versus you, there’s no enemy, and no opponent. Love yourself and reach the small goals to achieve the larger ones.
Support yourself with like-minded friends, family, and groups, and give support to others as well. So, we just said it’s you versus you, which means you aren’t competing with your best friends, family, or anyone at the gym. If you are looking for a group, make sure they share your mindset. They also want encouragement to accept themselves and have a stronger, more positive body image through healthy, sustainable means. You are all encouraging each other to push for a Better You, but not burn out, and not in a ‘self-loathing’ sort of way. Surround yourself with support and give positive support to others. If they are working hard, tell them. Help them feel confident in what they do, and they will help you. Give to them in that way and cheer them on to see that they are The Go Standard of beauty and fitness, not some unrealistic version of themselves that never seems to be perfect enough for everyone else.
Realize why the media wants you to perceive beauty in a certain way. This isn’t about image so much as it is about sales. Companies need sales and sex sells. We buy based on our attachment to what we see and the more desire we have for an image the more we feel we have to buy. Maybe these products work, maybe they don’t. Maybe they work differently for everyone. Fitness models sell training, clothing and supplements. Sure, they want you to benefit, but will there be a product without sales? And would you buy it if they weren’t creating some kind of desire. The unfortunate side-effect is that you try to change yourself to be like the person selling the product instead of finding value in wellness and your health for you. See it for what it is and know that it isn’t as personal as it seems.
I want you to be healthy, above all. Being the supermodel on the billboard, or in the commercial, or that you see in the magazine will not necessarily make you healthy. That’s the most important thing. If you are part of my Go Standard community, then you know that I want you to believe in you, trust you, and create a Better You. This is about having fitness and nutrition in your life to be the best human being you can be, not just to be rich and famous. That may happen as a result if you want it, but not out of stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and a negative view of yourself.
Stay Active and Be Happy!
By Minsoo Go