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Illusion Of Ideal: Body Image, Colorism and Mental Health

Haven't we all been subjected to comparisons with an “ideal” body type? Irrespective

of gender I think we all have been put on an unwarranted pedestal at some point in our lives

on which we’ve been judged needlessly. Either females are too skinny or too “healthy” for

the chase behind the “hourglass” figure. Similarly, males are demanded to be muscular and

bulky as per societal standards. But what if one does not fit in these unattainable and

idealized beauty norms that are collectively set by us as a society for ourselves. It might give

rise to body image issues that a lot of us face on a daily basis. It is the way we feel and think

about our bodies and our overall perception of ourselves which influences our mental health.

In March 2019, the Mental Health Foundation surveyed 4505 adults and found that 20% of

them felt shame, 34% felt low and about 19% felt disgusted because of their body image

(Mental Health Foundation, 2019). Studies have also shown that distorted body image often

leads to depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem. In severe cases one can be prone to

eating disorders and suicidal thoughts (Prabhu and Cunha, 2018).

Additionally, colorism that prevails due to the obsession for lighter skin is quite

paradoxical for a country like India, as it lies near the equator, and is prone to brown skin. It

is amusing to me that a pigment like melanin can be a basis for discrimination and prejudice

among the population. However, it is disheartening that as a society we fail to take

responsibility for moulding young minds into the trap of bigotry. Feeling of guilt, confusion,

inadequacy and desolation might accompany someone who encounters colorism. It can be

distressing to not be able to accept and embrace oneself, which can have repercussions on

our social lives and our academic performances.

Factors ranging from exposure to media, cultural biases as well as famous

personalities can influence our self perception and worth. I believe change starts within

therefore it is required to look beyond these trivial aspects and unlearn our prejudices one

step at a time as individuals. An effective regulation of media portrayal and conscious

choices regarding the same can be considered. Parents, teachers and other influencers in the

lives of young children can promote self love and broaden the horizon for all shapes, sizes

and colours. Being “perfect” is subjective hence, one should eschew from indulging in this

Sisyphean task. We need to introspect that we are constituent elements of society with the

power to reform the norms.There is beauty in diversity and individuality that sets us apart as

a species. In conclusion, we should not give others the power to impact our lives and

maintain boundaries by being more mindful.


Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Body Image: How we think and feel about our bodies.

London: Mental Health Foundation.

Prabhu S, D' Cunha D. Comparison of body image perception and the actual BMI and

correlation with self-esteem and mental health: A cross-sectional study among

adolescents. Int J Health Allied Sci 2018;7:145-9


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