Perfect Body: you’ll be fooled by this social oxymoron
Today we will talk about the “Perfect Body“. We will focus on this mythological monster which destroys the lives of countless women. You might want to sit and relax for a few minutes. In this post, you will find some reflections on perfection and how media influences it. I will also tell you why in the past ten years things have become harder for body confidence.
We will tell you of Elizabeth and her “almost perfect body”. More importantly, we will tell you how this ruined her mental health.
So, are you ready to hear why a perfect body is an oxymoron? Why it can’t exist? Yet, we also want to tell you that having an imperfect body and accepting it is much better for us. We previously spoke about the perfect body, and you can read about it here.
Perfect body: what’s that?
The evolution of our world is not always “for the best”. The idea of the “Perfect Body” is one of the areas in which we have sidestepped. There is huge pressure on women’s appearance. In my mind, there is always the question: what is a perfect body? Are we taking into consideration the French “petite” frame? Do we go for the British “rose” or the person of colour where the “lower curves” define beauty? Defining what a perfect body is, is not difficult, it is impossible. You can’t generalise a concept so abstract and personal.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? However, we all try to adapt to one trend or another.
The issue with trends is that they tend to change over time. The ’80s athletic model replaced the ’60s curvaceous beauty. It was then the ’90s emaciated girl to trend. When do you win? Well, the answer is “never”. You will never have the perfect body because there is no such thing!
Latins used to say “Mens sana in corpore sano“*, which was much healthier (pun intended). (*A healthy mind in a healthy body). If you are healthy, and you accept that a healthy body comes in different sizes and shapes, you will live better. You will also enjoy a better relationship with food.
Social media pressure
Ten years ago, when we started photographing boudoir, we knew society had an issue. To put the same concept in better words, society created problems for women. How can you open a magazine, see a 60 years old woman with no sign of age and feel good about yourself? It is like me baking my cake and comparing it with the ones on the pages of “Bakers’ of the Year!”. If ten years ago someone had told me things would have gotten worse, I would not have believed them. You can’t beat Vogue for showing a perfect body on every page, can you?
Alas, here comes social media. The growth of Instagram comes with the growth of “perfect people”. Always happy, in dreamlike locations, everyone with a perfect body. How the hell is that possible? And how is this affecting us?
We know Vogue is about models and that was already bad. What about Instagram? The real issue is we think it is people like us. Yet, assuming that many of our “friends” on Social Media have a more perfect body than ours is worst.
The story of Elizabeth
Here comes the story of Elizabeth, a beautiful client we photographed some time ago. When she stepped into our studio, our makeup artist expressed her appreciation by saying “I want that body!”. While a “perfect body” doesn’t exist, Elizabeth had one that closely connected with that idea. When she was ready with her makeup on, she took us aside. In a very sombre tone, she asked us to make sure her photos did not show her “nasty mole”.
Now, we are quite detail-oriented people, but the mole was invisible. She hated to show that, under her makeup, a slightly darker spot was still escaping her beauty. Elizabeth hated it with all herself. She confessed she went to such lengths to see a surgeon to remove it. The fact that one of the top surgeons in London refused to take her case made her reconsider a bit. He had told her he wouldn’t have risked a scar on her face to remove what was a small, benign mole.
Trust me, even without the makeup on, the mole was barely visible. Still, Elizabeth’s focus was solely on it. Makeup, light and a tad of skin cleaning made of Elizabeth a delighted woman. So, for us, this was a valuable lesson.
The white sheet of paper and the black dot
Our body is like a sheet of paper. Mine, for example, is full of marks, with some curves where I would have loved some straight lines. I look at it, and I know it could look better, but at the end of the day, it is my body. The real trouble starts when the sheet of paper is almost completely white. The comparison is simple: a perfect body equals a white sheet of paper. The whiter your sheet is, the more you will focus on the black dots.
The research of the perfect body is a hunt for unhappiness. No matter how close you come to the “perfect body”, you will never truly reach it. Trends and ideals change. Trying to be something so subjective is a neverending task. How can you be happy knowing you will never achieve your goals? Of course, you can tell me that it is about the journey, not the result. Therefore, the journey to a perfect body is a journey which will always shame you. It is because you will always differ from floating ideals. This does not look like a healthy way of living to me.
Remember the Romans. They did not say “a healthy mind in a perfect body”. They always mentioned a healthy body. This is what you should focus your attention on. Your journey should not be towards something ephemeral as physical perfection. Let it be about a healthy lifestyle, reaching targets and looking at yourself with kind eyes.
So, no matter how beautiful Elizabeth is, her mole will always concern her. But for the thousands of women who have accepted their bodies, the future is brighter. In accepting their bodies, they have gained something much more valuable: confidence. Boudoir can only do so much. It cannot show you a body you don’t have. Being photographed without veils means being ready to love yourself. It does not mean trying to be a white sheet of paper.
Remember that the pages of the best books are not white: inks and words stain the paper. That’s what makes them unique.