Having An Average Body: The Double-Edged Sword of Body Dysmorphia
This may be a harder article to write, as it’s based on a very recent experience of mine. As you probably know, I’ve started becoming more body positive on my social media profiles. My most frequent talking point is that your body image should not be attached to your self-worth or confidence, which is something I used to do quite a lot. It started originally as a way of showing more authenticity online, but the response was something I never saw coming. There was a resounding amount of support and so many messages saying they were happy to finally see their body type represented online, which surprised me a little because I have an average body.
I spent a bit of time thinking about it and I realised that the average body is the most underrepresented online. Whilst many will say that it’s not called for as it’s the most common body type, body dysmorphia doesn’t hold back. It doesn’t matter what your body type is, it can strike anyone. So this article is going to focus on the damage that body dysmorphia and underrepresentation of ‘the average body’ can have on us.
The reason I decided to write this is that I infrequently received comments stating that I was “not fat enough” to talk about body image. Yup, you read that right.
The comments I received on this were, for want of a better phrase, a headfuck. Half of them were saying that I’m lazy, couldn’t stick to working out and have gotten fat. The other half said that I’m skinny, telling me to get a grip as I’m not fat and am a Twink attempting to be body positive. Quite the mixed response, hey? Now imagine what this can do to someone with body dysmorphia. One day you can look in the mirror and scrutinise every ounce of fat on your body, the next your arms aren’t big enough and you’re too skinny.
That’s where we come to the main point of the article, the double-edged sword of body dysmorphia. Plus-size models are now more and more represented which is amazing and necessary, the majority of the spotlight remains on those with ‘social body ideals’. But, the average body is nowhere to be seen. The body that most people have, is never shown as being desirable in the media. Social body ideals are still at the forefront, and plus-size people are growing in empowerment, the average body just floats.
I do not want to take up any space in the 'body positivity' movement. I have spent time educating myself and have learned that a body type like mine should focus on body neutrality. Society hasn't told me to hate myself or my body. My body is not publicly 'demonised', whereas plus-sized people's bodies are. I admit and will continue to admit that I am not plus-size nor am I overweight. I am simply no longer toned and have an average body. I am inundated with comments stating how nice it is for people to finally see their bodies represented through my content, which is all I want.
If my body is more slender than yours and the empowerment of my body offends you, then there are many other people online that will empower your body type. If you are more into fitness and don’t agree with what I’m saying, then my profile isn’t for you and you can simply unfollow me (no need to be a dick and call me fat, not sure what you’re achieving).
This article is for everyone. My goal is to help you to be kinder to yourself EXACTLY as you are. With no need to change. You don’t need to change your body to be socially accepted. So, here are just a few pieces of advice that hopefully anyone, of any body type, can take away from this article:
Don’t Invalidate Other Peoples’ Struggles - Everyone’s struggles are different. Yes, relatively you may be struggling more, but that doesn’t stop someone else from struggling with their own battles. Let’s recognise that just because you may have it worse, doesn’t automatically elevate someone else’s pain.
Recognise When Your Own Insecurities Are being Projected - Something I personally get a lot is being told I’m not ‘fat enough’ to talk about body image. This, to me, comes across as a projection. I am in no way invalidating your struggles as a plus-size individual or any other battles you may be fighting. If someone else’s positive message simply doesn’t resonate with you, that’s ok! But, don’t bring them down for it.
Try Not To Attach Your Self-Worth To Your Body - If the way your body looks impacts your confidence, be it positively or negatively, this is not a sustainable cycle. Your body will change over time and will be harder to adjust to psychologically. If your self-acceptance comes internally, then you will manage your physical changes better.
Avoid Using Physically Specific Body Comments - Compliments are great! But, not all compliments can be received the way they were intended. I’ve been called ‘skinny’ before, which as someone who has struggled with their body image (feeling too big or too small) is not a compliment to me. Instead, maybe compliment based on the way they’re carrying themselves like “you seem happy!”, that way you’re complimenting the way the person feels about themselves rather than their body. Also, avoid words that imply an improvement, such as happier, better, healthier etc. This reinforces the idea that they’ve changed their body for the better, which implies their previous aesthetic was less acceptable.
I hope this helps! All of these articles focus more on my own experiences but I am to turn them into more of a learning experience!