My body grows, shrinks, cycles, and changes in response to stress, love, food availability, exercise habits, mood, hormones, weather, age. What is now hasn't always been and won't always be and yet may be once again.
I think somewhere in our brains, we all know that photos and ads are highly constructed and more of an art form than a glimpse into solid reality, but when we see endless streams of this photographic art online/on tv/in magazines/on social media, AND it's all of the same form and style, it begins to feel like those images are reality and we can begin to feel really bad about ourselves. Real reality is nowhere near so narrow in scope nor glossy in presentation. In real reality, clothes wrinkle, people come in all shapes/colors/sizes, and lighting is usually less than ideal.
To get those particular photos, you have to start with someone who was born (I will not say genetically blessed. Length in bones can really stress your body, and being at risk for low bone density isn't a boon. Blessings and curses are wrapped up together in all of us) with height and narrowness, with a tendency for thinness. Then that person has to eat very carefully (if not actually under-eat) and exercise for tone. Then you need carefully constructed lighting, a high end camera, a photographer, a makeup and hair artist, and assistants. Then your model carefully flexes muscles and twists in ways to accentuate litheness. Then, you take a few HUNDRED photos or more and hope that one of them captures The Look. Finally it goes to post-processing Photoshop for the lines and lighting and everything, really, to be altered. Is this reality? To me, it's art, and while art can have a relationship with reality, art is not reality.
I see "strong is the new skinny" and cringe, because it's juxtaposed on a body that is both skinny and toned. It's trying to convey a message that strength is good for women, but in actuality it conveys that now you have two tyrannical body goals instead of one. Strength can be physical, emotional, social, and otherwise. Physical strength can be hidden behind fat that would keep you strong through serious illness, where low-fat 6 pack ab bodies would suffer. Health comes in all shapes and sizes. You can't see how someone is doing, you have to ask them (don't tell them what you think of their bodies or health), and when they answer, you have to listen and accept their answer and their agency. Be supportive, not judgmental.
For a really long time I chose to hide myself, both because I wasn't ready for the focused attention of other humans, and because it felt really squicky that I fit an enviable mold and constantly get asked what my "secret" is. I'm 5'8.5", fine-boned, and slender. I had a decade of horrible self esteem, anxiety, and depression. I look the same now as I did then, but I feel worlds different. I don't want anyone else to look at me and feel down on themselves. That thought causes me panic. I want to be able to be my own very best, and put myself on display when and how I choose. I want you to be your own very best, and put your unique self on display when and how you so choose. Diversity is stability. I want every flower in the garden to feel beautiful. The buttercup is no more or less beautiful than the rose, than the lilac, than the bird of paradise.
When I post art/images of myself, I want it to say "I feel good today, and I hope you feel good today too, and our goods (hehe) might look wildly different, but I love them both. I don't want to hide my body, and I don't want you to want to hide yours. Let's do a few exercises for our organ health, a bit of stretching, and put on our stylish best."
If you are struggling to celebrate your friggin' gorgeous amazingness, maybe take a break from media streams, or better yet diversify the streams you're exposed to. If you aren't finding photographic art that you think echoes you, hop into it and make your own- celebrate yourself, and you just might make someone else feel good and more visible in the process. Part of why I like style systems is because they put physical differences on equal footing- all of the types are beautiful, regardless of which particular features are currently en vogue.
So PLEASE leave a comment with your own favorite link to someone (blog, IG, youtube, etc) who you feel expands the mold (or someone who fits the mold, but does a good job critically engaging with it), so that we can all add more diversity to our screens.
A few contributions:
https://www.instagram.com/celestebarber/ (I find some of her commentary thin shaming, but funny on the whole)