What Does a “Real Person” Look Like?


barbie-proportions

If you’re a regular at thezombieshuffle, you know that I’m a big proponent of accepting yourself for who you are, while always striving for self-improvement. At first glance those two concepts may seem contradictory. If you accept yourself for who you are why should you strive to be something more? Rather than being contradictory, I see them as complementary.

By accepting yourself, I mean that it’s important to truly be able to love yourself for who you are, as you are. The person you are today may not be perfect, but you are “enough”. This doesn’t however mean you can’t improve, and strive to be something more. And in fact I think we should always strive to improve ourselves in all aspects of life. Saying you are enough simply means you are measuring your self-worth against who you actually are, instead of some ideal of who you believe you should be. It’s saying I don’t NEED to be more to be worthy of love and acceptance by myself and others. I am worthy of love and acceptance as I am right now.

Body Image

In order to accept yourself for who you are you need to be able to accept all of yourself for who you are. But when we look in the mirror, we don’t see our hearts and souls – we see our bodies. Think of our bodies, and our ideas of beauty for a moment.

People magazine has an annual “sexiest man alive” issue. Over the past few years the winners were Adam Levine, Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Renolds, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Matt Damon and George Clooney. In 1989 it was Sean Connery, who was 60 at the time. That list has considerable diversity among both age and body type.

Now look at the equivalent for women. Esquire has a “sexiest woman alive” list, and over the past few years they have Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Rihanna, Minka Kelly, Kate Beckinsale, Halle Berry and Charlize Theron. The women all seem to be between their early 20’s and early 30’s, and they all share a similar body type. The cover photos of the women are much more sexualized, with greater focus on their… shall we say “physical attributes”. The mold women need to fit to meet the standard of beauty seems very rigid. Let’s face it, you sure don’t see any 60 year old women on that list. Why not? Why is age fine for men, but not for women?

In most movies or TV shows, if there is a female character that is supposed to be “ugly” they are always someone who is beautiful by most standards. They just have less makeup, or are dressed in frumpy or quirky clothes.
If you think about age, in movies it is so common to see an older male protagonist with a much younger woman that you don’t really notice it. But if an older woman is with a younger man then it’s likely some sort of plot device. Older men are seen as “distinguished”, while older women are just seen as old.

Seeing all this, I have to admit sometimes I’m really glad I am a guy. I can only image how hard it is for a woman to constantly be bombarded with this sort of media imaging of what is beautiful, and how it must impact their self image.

You are More Beautiful Than You Think

A few years back, Dove had an ad campaign that touched on body image issues for women. In one ad women sat down with a police forensic artist who couldn’t see them, and he drew them based on how they described themselves.

Afterwards the women left and a second drawing of the person was done based on the descriptions provided by a person who had met them in the lobby.

The women tended to be critical of themselves, while the person who had met them in the lobby was more inclined to be positive in their descriptions of the woman. As shown the in commercial, the second drawing depicted the woman in a more flattering light (and also seemed more accurate). At the end of the ad, after seeing the two different pictures of her one woman noted:

We spend a lot of time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right, and we should spend more time appreciating the things we do like.

Body Transformation

Thinking of this unrealistic standard of beauty and negative body image reminds me of a mini controversy that erupted on social media a while back. An extremely fit mother of three posted a photo of herself in workout gear with her children, and a heading at the top that said “What’s your excuse?”

When it happened there was an outcry of people who felt that her image was an example of body shaming, and people saying that she didn’t represent what “real people” look like. Things took a nasty turn as photos of obese people started circulating social media in response with headings like “Is this what a real person looks like?”

It ended up making national news, and there was an ABC News interview where she said:

No matter how many children you have, especially when you’re working and trying to maintain your shape, you don’t have to lose yourself in becoming a mother. You can still maintain a sense of self physically and professionally. If I can do it, you can do it.

I think that instead of using “What’s your excuse” she probably should have used something like “You can do it too”. But part of me agrees with her. You CAN do it. Heck, I can do it too (though I may look somewhat ridiculous in a sports bra). You own your life, and make your own decisions. If you want changes in your life, the only way to do it is by taking ownership and making changes on your own.

So yes, you can get in great shape. But guess what? It requires work, time, and effort. And you have to ask yourself, what do you have to give up? What are your priorities?

What Do You Want?

If you want to get into better shape, stop and ask yourself WHY you want to get into better shape. What do you hope to accomplish? Be introspective and honest here. Are you trying to fit an arbitrary mold of beauty?

If so, let me give you perhaps a different perspective on body image. A buddy of mine plays competitive volleyball, and to keep playing as he has aged, he had a workout routine tailored to his needs. He made a comment to me that made a lot of sense. He said it was more important that he had functional muscles for what he wanted to do with his life than it was to have the sort of muscles that would attract attention in a bar.

We aren’t all competitive athletes, but the same idea applies. Instead of comparing yourself to fashion models and movie stars, ask yourself what are the things you enjoy doing? Travelling? Swimming? Bike riding? Softball? Keeping up with your children? Going for walks in the park? Are you able to do the things that you enjoy, or does your body and your physical conditioning hamper your ability to do these things? I think THAT should be the most important thing. Not trying to fit the mold of what society says is beautiful.

There are health risks associated with being overweight, so from a health perspective alone it is important to take care of yourself. But how your body “looks” isn’t necessarily an indicator of the sort of shape you are in. I’ve seen people with heavier builds power through high intensity aerobic classes while thinner and more “fit looking” people struggled to keep up.

Accepting yourself

Going back to what I said at the beginning, we all need to accept ourselves for who we are. That doesn’t mean giving up, or saying that I can’t get “better”. But we shouldn’t measure ourselves against the current standard of beauty. It’s also important to remember that your beauty starts from the inside, not the outside. There are many men and women whose outward appearance may be beautiful, while inside they are anything but.

Although we all do this, it’s best not to compare ourselves to others. There are different body types out there, and that’s fine. I won’t pretend to speak for all guys, but based on a sample of myself and a sizable group of male friends, I have to tell you ladies there isn’t a single mold of what is beautiful. People are all different, and just as our personalities are different so are the characteristics that we find attractive. Instead of trying to be someone else, strive to be the best “you” that you can be.

So what does a real person look like? You see them every day. Your neighbor, your best friend, your co-worker, and most of all you. We are all real people.

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7 thoughts on “What Does a “Real Person” Look Like?

    • As a guy, I really wasn’t sure how my perspective would be received. But I really think it must be difficult to be a woman in todays world. I don’t know if it’s marketing, or media or what the cause is, but I don’t understand why women seem to be taught that aging is bad, and their bodies have to fit a certain mold to be “beautiful”.

      Beauty is about so much more than your body. But even if you focus on your body, people come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, and we should be able to accept both ourselves and each other as we are.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great piece. When you have doubt from within, it usually influences your external. I touched on this topic during my introduction to blogging months ago. I always questioned this concept of “real women.” I see it a lot, which caused us to talk about the topic at home. We have a number of interesting conversations in our marriage. LoL.

    As for the sexiest man alive list, they all fit an image–none of them are considered fat. Their frame may change: 6’3 195lbs, 6’1 185lbs, 5’9 165lbs, etc. They are all considered “sexy/in shape” in some sense of the word. In other words, you will not find John Goodman or Chris Farley. That relates to the female recipients as well. They each have different heights, hair color and lower weight range, but they each fit into a “slimmer/fit” bubble.

    They are on the list because this is how we gauge attractiveness in a popular magazine–successful and “in shape.” For their list, I think each person fits the criteria well. Each person may define sexiness differently of course, but in a general sense, the recipients matched with the magazines guidelines.

    Males experience the same influence of what body types look appealing, just as females receive what body types are appealing. Males simply do not vocally convey their disdain on an “ideal” body type as their female counterparts. You will be hard pressed finding obese male action figures, comic book heroes, popular action movie stars, etc.

    Michelle Pfeiffer was 41 when she made the list a second time. Jennifer Lopez was 42. Julia Roberts was 45, when she made the list for her fourth time. Helen Mirror is still considered stunning by popular culture, and she is 60+. In Hollywood, popular culture still considers thefollowing above 40 actresses as “hot,” Halle Berry, Uma Therman, Angela Bassett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Hurley, Famke Janssen, Jennifer Aniston, etc.

    The conditioning is the same in my opinion, but the reaction is different for males and females.

    When I saw “fit” males, I wanted to look like them, so I worked hard and made it happen. I didn’t complain or become upset that people consider their physique “sexy.” I think this is one of the issues some females face. They encounter a female that others consider “sexy/fit,” and instead of training to look that way, or saying “I don’t want to look that way,” they want other people to conform to their belief instead. So they campaign online that “Real women do not look this way.” In essence, they try to ridicule the opinion of others, by imposing their opinion. LoL.

    You can either fit what the “standard” types are, or you can say, “That standard does not work for me.” That is perfectly fine. However, some instead choose to say the people fitting the “sexy” label are not real, by passing off this idea that their appearance should instead be “sexy.” Anorexia is one thing, but remaining in shape and fit are something else entirely. I think each person should strive to remain in shape internally/externally, based on their outlook as you mentioned.

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    • Sorry about the late response to this. I haven’t been quite sure about the best way to answer this.

      I hadn’t realized the ages of some of the female winners (shows how much I follow celebrities). And I do agree with you that one key similarity is that fitness is seen as the ideal for both sexes.

      But I still think there are a number of double standards, and that the pressures on women are unfair. Women are still sexualized much more than men, which seems especially unfair when you think of what their bodies go through during pregnancy and childbirth.

      One thing I do find interesting is that it seems to be other women who are the most critical of women, much more so than men. Maybe it’s because we don’t have as much pressure on us for how we need to look. Almost every guy I know finds their partners beautiful, and they don’t really care if they are super fit or carrying extra weight. Sure, they may prefer if their partner was more fit, but it doesn’t change how they feel about them or their level of desire for them. There are exceptions of course.

      I think everyone should always take pride in their appearance, and try to take care of themselves. But it should always be for them self. I’ve kept in reasonably good shape over the years, but it was mostly because I played sports, and I enjoyed going to the gym. When I started my family My priorities shifted and I had less time for the gym, and that was fine. In the last few years my kids have been active in more events, leaving me less time for keeping fit. I could still make the time, but I haven’t prioritized it as much (which I sometimes regret when trying to keep up with guys 1/2 my age on a basketball court).

      I think it’s great when people are able to make the time and maintain a high level of fitness. But if someone can’t, that’s fine too. What’s important though is that people can be happy with themselves. And they shouldn’t have to look like a fitness junkie to feel that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As always, you gather where my perspective comes from. The delay is completely fine. I am more accepting to you taking time to respond, versus someone who replies with the first thought that comes to mind. LoL.

        As for double standards, I also believe they do exist. There is a study that says men and women both prefer marketing, when it involves a female actor. In other words, the subconscious attraction from both males and females, is another female. I have tried to locate this study again, because I heard about it several years ago. With that said, I know both sides experience physical double standards.

        “One thing I do find interesting is that it seems to be other women who are the most critical of women, much more so than men.”

        Interestingly, I worked on a post that is scheduled to go up later this month, which addresses this very topic. It is quite interesting that I’m not alone in this observation. You cannot tell a lot of women this though. They are conditioned to believe their insecurities were created by males, which is false in my observation. Their biggest judgement does not occur from males, but arrives from other females.

        I also think people place far too much pressure on themselves, when the discussion shifts into appearing physically fit. Do what works for you, not Gary, Suze or Tommy. The more people realize their body will work differently, the easier things will become

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      • Looking forward to your post then. I think that maybe the insecurities were initially created by men, but they became internalized and perpetuated by women. I believe women are much more likely to compare themselves physically to another women then men are. I see a dude who’s in better shape then me, generally I know it. But I don’t think it’s something I consciously think about.

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