Body Image Issues

woman in black tube top and blue denim jeans standing beside man in black suit
woman in black tube top and blue denim jeans standing beside man in black suit
Photo by: Szabolcs Toth/Unsplash

There has been a lot of discussion this week surrounding Khloe Kardashian and her response to the sharing of an unretouched photograph of her body. It has riled up people for a multitude of reasons, but I see her point of view perfectly because it mirrors my own. Let’s break it down.

Par for the course with social media, arguments broke out about whether she signed up for this by partaking in her family’s show. And staying true to form, an opportunity for meaningful conversations was sabotaged by hotheads and cyber yelling. 

Regardless of what opinion you hold about the Kardashians, what they stand for, and the effect they may or may not have had on young people and media, they are ultimately just as human as you and I. This means that like it or not, they are just as susceptible to insecurities, bullying, and body image issues. The latter is what I want to talk about.

In response to the photo being shared, Khloe shared a post to her Instagram which said among other things: 

“For those else (sic) who feel the constant pressure of not ever feeling perfect enough, I want you to know I see you and I understand. Every day I am told by my family and friends who love me that I am beautiful but I know that it needs to be believed from within. We are all unique and perfect in our own way. Whichever way one chooses to be seen. I have realized that we cannot continue to live life trying to fit into the perfect mould (sic) of what others have set for us. Just do you and make sure your heart is happy.” 

Never has a social media post resonated with me so much. Khloe managed to articulate exactly how I feel about my own body. It isn’t about outside pressures, or how others perceive you, the pressure comes from within for many of us and when that’s the case, no amount of reassurance from friends and family can make us feel differently about ourselves. 

When you have an internal ideal that you hold yourself to, no one else’s standards even touch the surface. I haven’t ever done any research into the area of body image and so I can only really formulate an opinion based on my own experiences, so I will. 

When you have acute issues with body image, societal beauty standards have extremely little weight on how you view yourself. You could be the perfect poster guy or gal for societal standards of beauty and would still perceive yourself as less than, as flawed, unattractive, or even plain ugly. With disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), the sufferer’s perception of themselves can become so warped that they do not really know what they truly look like. 

For example, my weight has fluctuated through my adult life by about 70lbs, what I see in the mirror however has stayed almost resolutely the same. When I look at my reflection, I see the same flaws in my body no matter what I have weighed, no matter whether my mental state was otherwise healthy, and if someone told me I was beautiful it wouldn’t make me feel better about myself because it doesn’t matter. I do not care whether I am beautiful to other people, I care about whether I am beautiful to myself and that seems much harder to live up to. 

So why is this relevant? Khloe is part of the family that has arguably shaped (at least in part) the current beauty standards that our society holds. People have told her repeatedly that the photo she wants to be removed isn’t that bad and that she looks great in it. 

The problem is, it doesn’t matter what other people think, whether she is perceived by others as meeting the beauty standards they have set. It is incredibly invalidating to be told that the things you struggle with aren’t problems. 

It is incredibly invalidating to tell someone that they don’t have the right to feel a certain way about themselves because of the money they have, the fame, the platform. 

Reading all of the rhetoric surrounding the debacle, it is clear that we still have a long way to go before we, as a society, understand how body image issues work. The person suffering does not see what everyone else sees. 

They see their perceived flaws, they see things that they need to fix, or change, or remove in order to reach the standards they have set for themselves. We may instinctively see them as vain, or worse, accuse them of fishing for compliments when they reject the ones offered to them. 

The truth is, it is impossible for some of us to understand why you would compliment us because we see a person completely different from the one other’s see. If you compliment a perceived flaw in the individual, we will think that you are lying to us to be nice, or on a really bad day may think that you are making fun of us. It is not your fault but try not to get angry if the response isn’t what you expect.

At the end of the day, if Khloe doesn’t like the photo, the respectful thing to do is to take it down. I also know people will be playing by different rules because she is famous and as an entity, the public seems to adamantly believe that they own a celebrity’s images more than the celebrity does. 

As a person, Khloe has spoken openly many times about the struggles she has faced with her body image, exacerbated by existing in the family she had no control over being born into. If we were all children, bullying and picking on another child for the way that they look, we would be punished for being cruel. 

Why do we struggle to accept that adults can bully adults too? And why do we treat the bullying of public figures as a form of entertainment? Why do we struggle so much with just being nice to each other? 

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