My body image advice for younger people

A young woman's legs are shown propped up on a white wall. She is wearing a short black tutu skirt and black lacy socks that twine up (or down, since her feet are pointing up) her legs.

Image description: A young woman’s legs are shown propped up on a white wall. She is wearing a short black tutu skirt and black lacy socks that twine up (or down, since her feet are pointing up) her legs.

Last week during a podcast recording, I was asked to talk about what I’d want young people today to know about body image and body shame, especially in a world where they’ve been surrounded by social media and internet culture as long as they can remember.

I think my answer is applicable to pretty much everyone:

🌪 Body and beauty standards have been imposed on you from the outside — you weren’t born with them. Other people and entities — companies, the media, friends, relatives, social media accounts — have impressed these standards on you for their own reasons, and may not have your best interests in mind.

🌪 Be skeptical when anyone or anything tries to make you feel worthless, less than or not up to standard. Who stands to gain or profit when you feel crappy about yourself?

🌪 Everything you see in images is altered in some way. Eeeeeeeverything. Even beautiful nature photos are often tweaked to impossible perfection! To say nothing of human bodies. There are even Photoshop-like tools for video now. The people you see in the media and in ads and on social media and on TV don’t look like that in real life, so don’t feel like you should, either.

🌪 Demand facts and evidence, especially about anything related to health. You are allowed to ask for evidence! Just because some dude on Youtube says something doesn’t make it true, or backed by evidence. Ask for the peer-reviewed study. Be less fun at parties. You deserve to make decisions based on reality.

🌪 Your body WILL accumulate stories, no matter what eye cream you use or gym you attend or bra you wear or food you eat. These stories might look like wrinkles, or scars, or acne, or moles, or stretch marks, or cellulite, or broken bones, or fat rolls, or chronic illnesses. And that’s all they are — stories. When anyone tells you that you have “flaws” or “blemishes” or that you need to erase or eliminate or hide some part of yourself, they’re trying to erase your stories. Reject that narrative. Your stories are important, unique and vital.

Let’s dig deep.

Every Monday, I send out my Body Liberation Guide, a thoughtful email jam-packed with resources for changing the way you see your own body and the bodies you see around you. And it’s free. Let’s change the world together.

Hi there! I'm Lindley (she/her, pronounced LIN-lee). I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock, which provides body-positive stock photos for commercial use, and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work at http://www.bodyliberationphotos.com.