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Winnie the Pooh Taught us Better

by Revathi Raghavan

We’ve all had days where we’ve stood in front of the mirror, sucking in our stomachs, holding our breaths, standing in odd poses, just to look like anything except what we are. I’m sure some of us have spent nights encircled by empty packets of chips and junk food feeling too full in our too tight skin. Surrounded by magazines where starving models are smiling and flaunting flawless figures, we are taught what to love, we are taught what to hate. 

From the early victorian era, the time of corsets drawn to make us feel alive only when we can’t breathe, the illusion and mirage of the perfect body has been imprinted behind our eyelids. The victorian era called them “wasp- waist” corsets, hinting that a woman’s body must be like that of an insect, where the waist is non-existent, and our abdomen and chest are in proportion, giving rise to the much glorified “hourglass figure”. 

Here’s some food for thought (ironic, I know ), body image is largely influenced by cultural and social environments. But through globalization and further integration of communities, we are all exposed to similar representations of the expected body type. For men, as they walk by advertisements that adorn Calvin Klein stores and magazine covers, their perception and their ideals are robbed from them, as they look down at bodies that project realism instead of idealism, they feel uncomfortable in the skin that’s made to fit them, as it should be. Girls who grew up playing with barbie dolls, with porcelain skin and hips that lie- they are plagued by the idea that to be beautiful you must be starving

We must take into account the sociocultural perspective that goes on to argue argues that visual media plays a major influence on our body ideals and illusions. If we are constantly exposed to a lot of one specific body shape in media —particularly if that body shape is paired with positive outcomes that include wealth, joy, and romantic success—we learn to value that body shape. The entire movie and model industry has become obsessive in terms of painting a picture of a utopian world, where one has to be skinny, starving to just be happy.  Additionally, if you take a look at almost any Netflix series that are based in high school or even just a mundane setting, you notice the ridiculous standards they set in terms of what to expect from yourself. Forcing us to believe that these characters have not sat through hours of hair and makeup, that these characters wake up looking the way they do, without an ounce of simple, “normality” about them. What this does only further reinforces the ideology that throughout our lives, we are constantly shown what being beautiful means, instead of allowing us to grab the word by its vowels and make it our own. As further globalization and westernization take place,  more areas of the world gain access to popular western television series and programs, where the image of the thin, hourglass-shaped bodies that tend to populate these programs may have an even stronger, unhealthy influence on global beauty ideals and perceptions. 

The glorification of unrealistic body ideals is further fuelled by an array of social media platforms. For example, different types of social media may lead to different psychological outcomes. Specifically speaking about appearance-focused social media use (e.g., posting, editing, and commenting on pictures applauding weight loss, and excessive use of filters) may be worse for body dysmorphia than other types of social media use. Instagram, is recognised as as a photo and video-focused platform, this has proven to be especially problematic when it comes to how the youth feel about their appearance. I know that I am guilty of deleting and archiving posts right after I post them simply because after I stare at them for a while, I begin to despise the picture, I begin to fixate on small aspects here and there, that didn’t stand out to me before, because I was scared that if I noticed them, other people would notice too, and my projected image of an attempt at perfection would be ruined. 

But I believe now that the stigma that surrounds talking about unrealistic beauty standards is now being shattered, we can finally look towards different characters that made our childhood what it is. I specifically would like to mention Winnie the pooh, who first taught us that happiness is anything we want it to be, that being any size doesn’t mean anything if it means you aren’t happy. One of my favorite Winnie the Pooh quotes was “I’m short and fat, and I’m proud of that”, for the simple reason that points towards the fact that self-acceptance is difficult but oh, so rewarding

It’s about time, we shed the shackles of false ideals, and instead talk about REAL people with REAL bodies.


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