When it comes to consuming media in 2015, there is literally nowhere to hide. Whether you're a check-your-phone-every-30-seconds-er, or someone who only logs into news and social media sites a few times a day, we are all constantly being bombarded with images of perfection that we couldn't escape from - even if we wanted to.
Not involved with any form of social media? Even if this rare type of human does indeed exist, the train or tube is always sporting a free newspaper on every other seat with the same agenda. And when you take a break from reading and look up, you're confronted with posters of enviably fit, half-naked women asking you whether or not you're 'beach body ready'.
Of course, as a culture, we should encourage Fitspiration. The promotion of eating well and exercising regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle, for the mind as well as the body, can only be a good thing. The Mental Health Foundation advocates exercise as a way to boost self-esteem and encourage a healthy body image. But if you do all of that and still don't look like the men or women you see on your screen, does that make you a failure? Does it make you UNhealthy?
No, it doesn't. But it certainly feels that way.
There is something systematically wrong with the way our media parade god-like bodies in front of us as a sort of yard stick against which we should be measured. And it is not true that this is an experience peculiar to women, it goes both ways to affect both male and female insecurities.
What is most worrying, though, is that we have become so hypnotized by this targeted mode of media absorption that we can hardly recognize it. We have even started seeking it out ourselves, by regularly checking certain Instagram pages that are highly likely to cause that intense guilty feeling.
How many of us have been on the train or on our lunch break and started to scroll through Instagram pages of #fitspo men and women, people who apparently never stop working out. Occasionally you might be jerked back into reality when a quote urging you to 'Work Out. Twice a day. Every day.' makes you realise how inherently unachievable these lifestyles are. For the most part though, you don't enter reality, instead you keep scrolling through, consuming these images like so much divine wisdom.
This is what is scariest about our culture. Not just that an endless font of Victoria Secret models, and their counterparts, appear on every screen and piece of paper that crosses our path, subconsciously goading us for having that chocolate croissant this morning. But that we are so accustomed to it that we engage without even questioning it or realising that it's happening.
Shouldn't we also encourage the promotion of a healthy body and a sustainable lifestyle, one that is truly active but maybe not be the result of a daily two-hour workout - what normal person has the time for that anyway? Let's stop comparing ourselves to others. We should focus on the innate individuality of our bodies and treasure that uniqueness. This is, perhaps, the ideology of an unrealistic dream world.
We can begin to question these images though. Not just those which directly and explicitly shame you, like the now infamous Protein World campaign, but also those which might usually slide by unnoticed, entering your subconscious. Once there, these messages can circulate feelings of shame and inadequacy. Feelings that have no rightful place in our minds.
Own your own body and your happiness. Do not let images that are specifically created to generate an unrealistic paradigm endanger your self-image. Live a healthy lifestyle for all the benefits it brings you, not just to pander to a media engendered figure of perfection. Most importantly, become an active consumer of this type of media, so that you can start to recognise and prevent these images from affecting the way you view yourself.Suggest a correction