“Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.”
― Cheri K. Erdman
I came across this quote whilst browsing the Internet and it really got me thinking. For a long while now, we’ve been told we live in a world where everyone seems to strive towards looking like those bleached, stick thin & plastic models seen all over the media. Everyone wants to be perfect, or to be what we’ve been made to think is perfect.
This concept is explored well throughout the most recebt album of Marina & the Diamonds, Electra Heart. You only have to listen to the first line of Teen Idle (‘I wanna be a bottle blonde, I don’t know why but I feel conned’) to see this. And it’s so common. Just think of all the bottle blonde celebs you see on TV, tanned and shaped to within an inch of their lives for starters.
I’m not going to lie and say I’ve lived a perfect life free of worry and consciousness about body image. Of course I haven’t, because let’s face it. Who has? In fact, in my younger years in particular I used to get highly paranoid about my skin and the general appearance of my face. I do have a very mild form of BDD; in the past I’d literally look in every reflection I could find to check on my current state. Not because I was a vain sod, but because it was something that genuinely worried me. It took over my life and luckily it’s something I seem to have learned to control a little bit.
I think summer, more than anything, changed that part of me for the better. I’m calling this ‘the camp effect.’ They say working in a kids summer camp is a bit like working in a bubble. I didn’t have a clue what this meant until I’d been there a few days, then it became clear. Whilst you’re in camp you get very little chance to find out what’s going on in the real world; you don’t see much news or gossip, you don’t watch much TV and you most definitely don’t get to see the newspapers and magazines so famed for shoving heavily photoshopped pictures of perfectly chiseled models down our throats. Camp is a world completely cut off from the real one.
But did this lifestyle have any affect? Well, yes. I believe it did. After a few weeks you genuinely lose all interest in how you look. I’m not joking, we kept ourselves clean and tidy but we didn’t go all out to look perfect, we didn’t spend hours on our hair and we didn’t spend hours in front of the mirror (mainly due to a lack of them). Girls pretty much stopped wearing make up. We just threw any old clothes on. In a way it was a perfect world, no one judged because you could just say ‘it doesn’t matter, I’m at camp’ and to be honest no one cared. I remember the first time we all properly dressed up for shabbat; some people were barely recognisable!
I believe not worrying about my image maybe even helped to improve my confidence, which to be honest is the complete opposite to what I’d expect. I honestly feel that it’s a viscous cycle when you start to become stressed and paranoid about an area of your body. You become obsessed, which leads to stress, and stress just leads to what you’re trying to change getting worse. When the stress is gone, so is the problem, in a vague way.
If this happened after just a few weeks, imagine the effect it would have if everyone lived like this. Surely the world would be a slightly better place. Surely people would focus completely on happiness rather than striving towards the imaginary, ideal and impossible world of Barbie & Ken.