As we progress further and further into the Digital Age, social media is becoming even more prevalent within our day-to-day lives. Think about it: when is the last time you went somewhere of interest without snapping a picture and posting it on Instagram or Facebook? Did you even really go if you didn’t share it? As social media continues to grow, it can be quite suffocating, as we are constantly shown images of how we should look and what we should be doing. Specifically, women with insecurities about their bodies can have a hard time when it comes to social media. A world full of “Instagram models” can leave many women feeling lesser and insecure.
In efforts to lift up and empower women, Dove is launching a campaign called “No Digital Distortion Mark“. Dove is promising not to portray any of its models using photoshop, avoiding filters which distort our ideals of beauty. “This is an inspiring campaign, but it comes amid an influx of similar efforts to improve self-esteem and body image,” says Seline Shenoy, author of Beauty Redefined, “but research continues to show that women are consumed by their looks, and lack confidence.”
We spoke with Seline Shenoy about her refreshing take on body image and social media. Keep reading for our exclusive interview with Ms. Shenoy.
ABOUT OUR INTERVIEWEE
Seline Shenoy, author of Beauty Redefined, is a podcast host and life coach who focuses on personal empowerment, self-esteem, productivity, and wellness. As the founder of The Dream Catcher, a blog community which encourages people to live their ideal life, Shenoy’s inspirational message has been attracting thousands of people worldwide since 2014. She is a regular contributor to a variety of publications including Forbes, MindBodyGreen, Elite Daily, Project Happiness, and Global Love Project
1. Women around the world tend to be very self-conscious of their physical appearances. How do you think that our usage of social media has affected this self-consciousness?
Psychologists have observed that social media exacerbates the tendency for frequent users to develop a skewed impression of the world which is seldom accurate or healthy. Young girls and women, for example, may develop unrealistic standards when it comes to their looks and bodies based on what they see on social media.
But instead of labeling social media as the bad guy, I see it as a double edged sword. The eventual effect that it has on your life really comes down to how you use it and for what purpose. The Internet is a neutral and open platform that levels the playing field when it comes to having access to knowledge that could help us live healthier, productive and more fulfilling lives.
If a girl or woman wants to avoid the negative impact that social media could have on her self-image, she need to become more conscious of her media diet. If she’s following social media accounts and blogs run by people and institutions that are shallow and appearance-focused, such as Instagram models and celebrity fashion and gossip related profiles, it can hurt them if they aren’t mindful of its probable impact on them, especially on a subconscious level.
The negative impact of social media can be avoided if a girl or woman is guided towards adopting a more empowering and all-encompassing standard for beauty which includes all aspects of her being – her intellect, aspirations, passions, talents and her morals.
2. Why do women feel such pressure to meet a certain standard of beauty?
The natural tendency for a woman to derive a dominant part of her identity and self-worth from her physical appearance has its roots in historical times, when women depended on marriage for their long-term security. A woman had to groom herself on all levels to attract a man and win his affections to ensure her financial stability, and in some cases, her survival.
Even though times have dramatically changed since then and women now have significantly more freedom and rights than their predecessors did, the vestiges of these archaic gender roles still persist in the female psyche. The pressures of living up to society’s expectations of physical beauty is still a real and widespread epidemic.
Starting from a very young age, little girls are inadvertently brainwashed into believing that being “pretty” is their ticket to popularity and social acceptance. As a result, it has become perfectly natural for a young girl to question her attractiveness and develop a lifelong quest for aesthetic perfection that often lasts well into her adult life.
These sentiments are compounded by the shallow and appearance-focused standards propagated by the media. With today’s media’s obsession with air-brushed celebrities, women feel more pressure to fit into cultural norms of beauty and are resorting to ever more extreme measures to do so.
3. What are the 8 fundamental changes that must take place in the media—and in society as a whole—in order to truly redefine our obsession with appearance?
Given this dismal portrayal of our social reality we need to figure out what we can do to empower the contemporary woman so that she feels whole, complete and accomplished even if she doesn’t measure up to the perceived ideal of beauty and own her unique brand of beauty, even if it does not fit within the conventional mold.
I believe that we need to tackle this by igniting a beauty revolution that changes the entire paradigm of beauty. We need to take measures to moderate or alter the messages and images propagated by the media and other key influencers in our society so that they align with a healthier ideal of women’s beauty that draws the focus from physical attractiveness to her accomplishments and her character.
Parenting workshops should be established in communities where parents are taught how to raise children to develop a clear sense of identity and a healthy body image. In conjunction with that we need to conduct mandatory high school and college self-improvement programs where kids can learn essential life skills that give them the mental and emotional tools to become psychologically healthy individuals. Hosting support groups specifically for girls and women dealing with self-esteem and body image issues will provide them with a community where they can honor each other’s experiences and support them on their journeys.
When it comes to the media I recommend several shifts, some of which have already come into play. There needs to be an equal representation of women from all races, colors, ethnicity and body types. We also need to give more exposure to women who accomplish impressive feats outside the world of glamour such as the fields of business, education, philanthropy, sports and science. Another important one is regulating TV commercials and print campaigns that capitalize on the vulnerability and insecurity of women to make a profit.
We have reached an ideal time in history to add momentum to the looming beauty revolution. The old paradigm, which consisted of forming opinions about women based solely on appearances, is antiquated and needs to be done away with. As a civilization, we need to move towards more progressive ways of being and thinking so that we can empower girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin and fulfill their highest potential.
4. What are the ten traits of a modern day “True Beauty” (TB), and how can we apply these traits to achieve a more meaningful life?
The notion of the modern day beauty should be seen as multi-faceted – it’s not just about how pretty you look or how in shape you are but it’s about your character. To make this new perspective on beauty easier to understand, I have created a fictional persona of a woman, called a True Beauty (TB). She exemplifies the new standards of modern-day beauty, which include her belief system, ideologies, and personal values.
These are the ten characteristics that define a True Beauty. I believe if every girl and woman aspires to these ideals, she will radiate beauty from the inside out.
- A True Beauty is not defined by her size or body type. For the longest time women have felt pressured to conform to a specific body type, shape, or size to be considered attractive. The reality is that women come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. A True Beauty does not obsess about changing the things about her body that cannot be changed. She channels that energy toward becoming healthy and giving her body the care and nourishment it needs so she can experience total vitality, stable energy, and a strong constitution at all times.
- A True Beauty develops her intellect and personality. A True Beauty knows that her character plays an integral role in the persona she projects into the world. This influences her to give priority to enriching herself through constant self-development and personal education. Very often women mistakenly believe that their pretty face or attractive body is sufficient currency for getting ahead in life and opening up doors for themselves. Many women do get by in life by relying on their looks and even earn a good living, but if they want to be respected and liked, they can only do so by showing strength of character, dignity and integrity.
- A True Beauty is proud of her ethnic heritage. Gone are the days when beauty was defined by a certain skin color, facial feature, or body type characteristic of a specific race. A True Beauty draws on these modern values of cultural diversity and isn’t ashamed or self-conscious of any of her pronounced ethnically defined features, such as her skin color, hair texture, the size and shape of her nose, or the color of her eyes. Whether it’s her freckles, large luscious lips, eye fold, or curly long hair—she accepts all of it and is proud to represent her unique heritage. She knows her distinctive ethnic features enhance her personal beauty and gives her brand of beauty a distinguished kind of allure.
- A True Beauty is driven by her aspirations, hopes, and purpose. A True Beauty lives with a strong sense of purpose in her life. She does not allow herself to simply go through the motions and live aimlessly without a sense of who she is and what she wants to accomplish in the world. She knows there is much more to life than just trying to look pretty and garnering compliments from people. She has clarity about her goals and a compelling vision for her ideal life, which she proactively pursues on a daily basis.
- A True Beauty is not intimidated by the aging process. Many women struggle with the process of aging because they fear their physical beauty will fade away. True Beauty, on the other hand, accepts the inevitability of the aging process with a sense of peace. She doesn’t resist or fight it and, because of this attitude, she ages gracefully. She is convinced her beauty is not disappearing, but is simply transforming into another form that is a product of all the wisdom she has accumulated over the years.
- A True Beauty wants to make a difference in the lives of others. A True Beauty is always looking for opportunities to add to the lives of people in a positive way. She may wish to touch the lives of the people within her own family, community, country, or even the world. The scale of her contribution is not important, as long as she makes a difference doing something that is close to her heart and in line with her values.
- A True Beauty is understated. A True Beauty is not desperate or needy for other people’s validation. She is self-assured because she is already convinced of her value as a woman. She does not feel the need to be loud or overbearing in her communication, mannerisms, or fashion sense. Her beauty is understated, honest, and genuine because it is grounded in a strong sense of self and respect.
- A True Beauty practices self-love. A True Beauty makes her self-care regime a top priority. She protects her emotional health by building healthy boundaries in relationships and friendships and never allowing other people to mistreat or disrespect her. She speaks to herself with love and kindness and does not beat herself up for making mistakes. She is her own best friend, cheerleader, and manager, ensuring that all her personal, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs are being properly met.
- A True Beauty demonstrates compassion. A True Beauty exudes empathy, kindness, and shows real concern for others. She’s not afraid to express her natural feminine and nurturing traits. She is inherently curious about those she meets and takes a sincere interest in their lives. She is also secure enough to offer them genuine compliments. Her aim is to make others feel special, as opposed to trying to get others to make her feel the same way.
- A True Beauty defines her own standards of beauty and lives by them. A True Beauty is not concerned about the general consensus of what is considered to be attractive and unattractive, or what’s trendy and not so trendy. She sets her own standards of beauty and defines her own unique style. She decides whether her well-defined muscles are hot or not. She decides if her afro is hip or not. She decides if her button nose is charming or not. She makes the best of what she has and does not feel the need to prove her worthiness or value to anyone.