As many of you know, the fashion industry influences us on both a conscious and subconscious level. Through advertising their version of what constitutes beauty/attractiveness and surrounding us with it, we start to internalize it. Mostly, the ideas they have of what beauty is are as follows: skinny (female), muscled (male), Caucasian (but not too white!…just the right tan color), tall, with a focus on Euro-centric beauty (blue/green eyes, “European” noses vs. African noses, etc.)
This creates a problem. Though hard to admit, we aren’t passive creatures… when we’re bombarded with this image of beauty on TV, in movies, in magazines, in advertisements on the road – and when this image of beauty is also associated with wealth, success, happiness and purity, it becomes ingrained into our psyche.
There are examples of people who don’t fit the conventional idea of beauty on TV and as models, but here’s the problem: Focusing on the racial discrimination for a moment, even when you see successful African-American models like Tyra Banks or Iman – they have Caucasian-like features (Tyra has green eyes, and both Tyra Banks and Iman have thinner noses). Of course there are some exceptions of African-American models who have more typical African-American features, but they are a rarity.
So what does this have to do with health? Aside from the obvious negative effects it has on our self-image and mood (for those of us who don’t “fit” the stereotype of beauty the fashion industry has created), it can lead to depression and anxiety which in turn can lead to heart problems, high cortisol (stress hormones), unregulated blood sugar, and more.
While none of us (including myself) can honestly say we don’t, at least to some degree, internalize these ideas of beauty, we can be more aware of it. And not only be aware of it – we can question it when it appears into our own negative self-talk. We’ve all told ourselves “I wish I wasn’t/didn’t have ______”. (Fill in blank with “fat”, “so dark”, “so white”, “such a big nose”, “have nice straight hair”, etc.) What exactly would you want to look like? Is what you want to look like a whole different person, or just a better looking you? Why is your “big” nose a problem? Why do you wish you were that golden-tanned skin tone?
Another important aspect is opening your mind to other ideas of beauty. The next time you’re people-watching (I know we all do this! =p), take a second glance at someone who didn’t fit your idea of attractiveness (maybe this person is a bit curvier, or has curly hair, or as I’ve heard some people say…maybe this person is of a race that you just don’t find attractive. I find this hard to understand, but I digress.) You may find an exception to the rule. And that exception will start to re-define your rules of beauty. This will not only open your mind to different types of beauty, but lead you to better accept your own flaws, and ultimately, lead you to better health.
What are your thoughts on “beauty” presented to us in our everyday lives? I’d love to discuss with you in the comments below!
Dr. Rahim Kanji is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Toronto, Canada. He has a passion for evidence-based natural medicine, specifically empowering his patients to make nutritional changes which create dramatic impacts to their health. For more information, visit his website at www.rahimkanjind.com.