ESTABLISHING YOUR OWN BEAUTY STANDARD

YUMI GRACE OKEREKE

The term “self-love” has become a phenomenon with the rise of social media. We see plenty of people posting about it on their accounts or even creating a video about it. For many, telling yourself to love yourself is easier said than done – although for me, it is not. It is especially hard to be satisfied and happy with who you are without thinking about internal and external aspects of yourself as being less than in other people. Becoming able to love yourself is a long journey that requires the constant bringing of positive feelings from deep down in our hearts. This article will look at cultural differences in beauty standards and share my experience of the self-love journey.

DO YOU LOVE YOURSELF?

JAPANESE BEAUTY STANDARDS

Beauty standards in Japan have changed over the centuries as our country has started to integrate western cultures into the traditional Japanese lifestyle. To take an example from eyebrow makeup history, during the Heian period (794-1185) a woman without eyebrows was considered an ideal of a beautiful woman (Toshidama, 2016), whereas the current trend for eyebrow makeup in Japan is roughly shaped thick eyebrows. Nowadays, women with shaved eyebrows are taken for gang wives or actual members of a gang.

Current trend

Heian period Current trend

One of the beauty standards that make Japanese women struggle is weight. Having a skinny body has long been the ultimate goal for many. There are three kinds of ideal weight based on Body Mass Index (BMI), which are categorized as “standard weight”, “beauty weight”, and “Cinderella weight”. These are found in most Japanese online articles that provide weight loss advice.

HeightStandard weightBeauty weightCinderella weight
158cm(Average Japanese woman’s height)54.9kg47.4kg44.9kg
168cm(Average Czech woman’s height)62.1kg53.6kg50.8kg
*This table is based on data from Bostock(2019) and LIVE JAPAN(2020).

A healthy BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9 and represents a weight that avoids risk of contracting a disease (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). However, the Japanese standard weight is a BMI of 22. If it exceeds 22, it is categorized as overweight by Japanese beauty standards. A Beauty weight is a BMI of about 19 or 20; a person who has achieved this is said to look slim. The most problematic category of ideal weight is Cinderella weight, which is an expected BMI of 18. The term “Cinderella weight” has been widespread among female high-schoolers on social media since 2016. The reason it is called Cinderella is that women with this weight would not break the glass shoes and could be carried by the prince of the fairy tale (Nikkei BP, 2021). 1 in 5 women between 15 to 29 years old is underweight (Statista, 2021). According to research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021), a BMI below 18.5 is in the lowest body weight range. The underweight body runs several risks, such as hair loss, poor immune system, and irregular menstrual cycle (Nall, 2018). Therefore, aiming to achieve Cinderella weight can be toxic to the body.

NIGERIAN BEAUTY STANDARDS

There is growing concern about skin bleaching, one of the Nigerian beauty standards. This colouring trend is entrenched in history owing to the British colonization of Nigeria. Although this ended in 1960, the idea of light skin as beautiful remains a mindset among Nigerian women. Indeed, 77% use skin-lightening products (Efemini, 2021). Some actresses transform their skin tone from darker shades to lighter shades (Lennon, n.d.). People in an influential position, especially in the entertainment industry, willingly change their skin tone, a major factor in the embedding of this beauty standard.

Cited from (Okundia, 2020)

So what about their beauty standards for body shape? Interestingly, their thinking is the opposite of that of the Japanese. Traditionally, Nigerians appreciate female curvy bodies, plump bottoms especially (AFRICA REGIONAL SEXUALITY RESOURCE CENTRE & Oloruntoba-Oju, 2007). There was a stereotypical belief that being skinny meant that a person was poor and suffering from malnutrition, whereas being overweight was a symbol of their wealth. This stereotype still exists and remains a beauty standard in some regions, where having a thin body does not represent beauty or affluence. This thought has changed in recent years as obesity becomes a national issue (Jaiyesimi, 2017). However, this type of received idea has already been instilled in the beauty standards of the country, and “fat” women are still a byword for beauty. Even though skin bleaching bears the influence of colonization, the ideal body shape has not changed for a long time (Lennon, n.d.).

DIFFERENCES IN THESE TWO BEAUTY STANDARDS

Both Japanese and Nigerian beauty standards have evolved under the influence of historical events, especially westernization. However, the two beauty standards are dissimilar, especially in terms of body shape. The Japanese consider skinny women to be more beautiful, while Nigerians are attracted to curvy women, the polar opposite of the Japanese ideal. Because beauty standards have altered as times change, we can see that they offer just one limited view of a country.

PART II: MY OWN EXPERIENCE

The first time I heard the term “self-love” was four years ago. I still do not have enough confidence, but at that time my confidence was much lower than it is now. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I bemoaned my looks. I could not accept any compliment from my family or my friends saying, “You look cute,” or “I love your outfit today!”. Instead of thanking them for this, I would respond: “You guys need to go to the eye doctor.” My response was no joke at all. Sometimes, I could not leave the house because I was scared to be seen by other people outside. Even though I am not at the stage where I can fully love myself, it is getting better. So, I would like to share what I did to gradually become fine with being myself and to appreciate the importance of being beautiful not for others but for myself.

I LOST 20KG FOR MYSELF

Yes, I did lose 20kg in total during my journey. I was overweight and my BMI was 30.4 at that time. I ate as an when I felt like it and never left my bed except when I had to, so my lifestyle was quite unpleasant. According to the BMI categories, this figure is classified as obesity, so I was putting my body under threat of disease (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d.). It was hard for me to breathe properly, and I had a hacking cough all the time. It was necessary to change my poor lifestyle for the sake of my health. I started going outside and decided never to eat more than three times a day. Luckily, at that time I started high school, and the school was far away from my house, giving me an unprecedented chance to start exercising. My body changed both visibly and internally after a couple of months. Not only did my health problems become better, but I gained in confidence once my BMI was in the standard category.

SELF-DISCOVERY

Through my journey I learned the importance of discovering aspects that make me unique. These can be either strengths or weaknesses. Finding a strength can help you love yourself and make you attractive to both yourself and others. If you find a weakness or aspects that you do not like about yourself, it is best to ask yourself whether you can interpret these aspects more positively or work to improve them. For example, I used to hate myself for being so stubborn; now I consider myself a strong-willed person. In this way, you can find a good side to a weakness.


FINDING A “GOOD” INFLUENCER

Finding a person you can admire and making them a role model does not mean having to compare yourself to them or feeling the impossibility of becoming like them. The influencer does not have to be an actual influencer on social media. He or she can be a family member or a friend – anyone from whom you can draw positive energy. To achieve self-love, first you must think about internal aspects you admire in other people and find out why you admire those aspects of them. You can see in them things you can apply to yourself. It is not about imitating them; it is about claiming positive energy from them and aiming to improve your internal self. If you are satisfied with your inner self, you can skip this process, but I highly recommend going through it. I have two good influencers, my mother and Jan Sincero. My mother starts her day by writing down affirmations and ends it by writing about all the things that made her feel happy or blessed during the day. She looks better than she did before she started this routine. Jan Sincero is the author of You Are a Badass, an inspirational book about improving your life by ending self-doubt and developing a beautiful inner self. This book gives me the impression that I have so much potential that I have not yet discovered.

INTERMITTENT FASTING

Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are thousands of dietary restrictions for weight loss, including cutting carbohydrates, meat, oils, and so on. However, intermittent fasting does not have strict dietary restrictions, unlike conventional diets. Instead, this diet maintains a healthy body by controlling the duration from the first meal intake to the last. The most popular way is a 16-hour fast. With this, you can eat basically whatever you want as long as you finish meals of the day within 8 hours (not eating junk food for every meal, of course). What I do is eat the first meal of the day at 11 am and start fasting from 7 pm. This sounds difficult to continue at first; however, you are allowed to drink coffee or tea during the fasting so you can relieve the pangs of hunger. There are other fasting plans, too, such as a 12-hour fast. Therefore you can find the one that seems not that difficult to continue. Intermittent fasting helps you with weight loss and also makes you more productive and physically active (Intermittent Fasting: What Is It, and How Does It Work?, n.d.).

FINAL THOUGHTS

Self-love sounds easy but it certainly is easier said than done. The pressure of achieving beauty standards is sometimes too much, and it might lead to stress. There is something no beauty standard has, however: your uniqueness. With this, your incomparable charm and the positive inspirations that you get from your own influencers will make you stunning enough to love yourself. This process of accepting yourself will take a long time, and it does not happen in one day. Inevitably you will be interrupted by pessimistic thoughts on your journey, and this cannot be avoided since you are trying to adopt a new way of thinking. But soon you will begin to succeed in instilling “self-love” in your mind. Good luck!

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