Self image. Everyone has struggled with it. For some, it’s a fairly short struggle — feeling self conscious about that zit in the middle of your forehead.

In a few days, the zit heals and all worry and embarrassment heals with it. For others, it’s a longer struggle — looking in the mirror and hating the reflection. Wishing and hoping and praying that one day it will change. Jayne Ruppert

The struggle with self-image has been around for as long as humans have walked the earth. For centuries humans have gone to great lengths to change their bodies.

For instance, the process of foot-binding was used in China for many years. From about the ages of 3 to 7, girls had their toes broken, folded under and wrapped tightly so that when the process was finished, their feet would only be a few inches long.

This process essentially crippled the girls that underwent it, but they were thought to have a better chance of finding a husband since men were attracted to small feet.

Another example is corseting during the Victorian era. Women were expected to wear stiff, tight corsets so that their bodies maintained the stereotypical female shape — big hips and a tiny waist. Their bodies actually adapted to the corset so that their ribs curved inward and their organs readjusted to this forced shape. However, this process left many unable to breathe or stand for long periods of time.

Other examples include neck elongation in Thailand, nose piercing as a part of Hinduism and lip piercing and earlobe stretching in some regions of Africa. Different cultures have different forms of how to modify their bodies in order to look the “accepted” way. But foundationally, it’s all the same problem.

Everyone is trying to reach the same goal — to look and feel beautiful. However, in society today, there aren’t different types of beautiful — we have been told that there is only one type of beautiful.

The biggest advocate for this one type of beautiful is the media. TV, books, magazines, newspapers, Internet, movies — they are everywhere, constantly surrounding people with how they should look and what they should do to look that way.

Society is very sneaky about it, too. It’s never bluntly stated — it’s hidden beneath attractive headlines and airbrushed models on the covers of magazines. It’s glamorized by size 2 actresses and 6-foot-2-inch men made completely of muscle.

It’s presented in a way so that we don’t question it — it seems like common sense that there would only be one type of beautiful and that whoever doesn’t fall into that category needs to change themselves so that they do.

This has led people, specifically in America, to go to drastic measures to alter themselves and conform to ideals almost impossible to achieve.

Here are some facts that illustrate the burden of body image people struggle with. The average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches tall and 140 pounds while the average fashion model is 5 feet 11 inches and 115 pounds.

Fashion models are also thinner than 98 percent of American women today. Also, 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with the way they look, and 91 percent of women on a college campus said they have tried to control their weight through dieting. Similarly, 25 percent of men and 45 percent of women are dieting at any given time. Finally, more than 1 million boys and men and more than 7 million girls and women struggle with eating disorders.

These numbers are incredible. Body image plagues everyone in some way or another. As society has progressed, struggles with self-image have gotten worse and worse. Why? Why is it that we have been told we have to look a certain way in order to be considered beautiful? Who decides what beautiful looks like? Why are there such lies in the world that cause over eight million Americans to develop eating disorders?

There is not one definition for beauty. If there was, everyone would look exactly the same. Everyone would have the same eyes, nose, mouth, hair. It would get pretty boring, actually. Beauty comes in every and all shapes and sizes, as cliché as that might sound. We just have to come to a place where that knowledge transfers from our minds to our hearts.

Jayne Ruppert is a senior at Westside Christian High School. She writes a monthly column for the Lake Oswego Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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