It’s Wednesday morning at 9am, and already, I have resumed my position on the sofa ready to binge another few episodes of Love Island Australia before I begin my day. I have to admit, now that I don’t have a desk to be at in Central London anymore due to the pandemic, this routine has become all too familiar. And while we all enjoy indulging in a little braindead reality television now and then, I’m beginning to notice a pattern.
Not just the pattern of dragging myself from my bed to my sofa every morning, but a mental pattern. When I go upstairs to get dressed I’m overly critical of what I look like. I felt ashamed of this mindset once I realized that it was happening because I never thought of myself as a shallow person. Yet somehow, I couldn’t help it. I was asking myself ridiculous questions such as, why isn’t my stomach flatter? Why aren’t my abs showing? Why does my bum have to be so small? Why are my limbs so gangly? Why can’t my breasts be as big as they were a few years ago ?!
But the real question I should be asking myself is, why can’t I see that my beauty has nothing to do with what I look like?
Now, it would be wrong to wholeheartedly blame Love Island Australia for these intrusive thoughts, as there are probably many deep-rooted reasons for my insecurities.
However, shows like this most certainly have their part to play in successfully chipping away at a woman’s self-worth. They literally reinforce the message that to be chosen for a relationship you have to be physically pleasing to look at.
I mean, let’s think about this for a second. At the very beginning of the first episode, the women are all lined up side by side like mannequins in a clothing store. Dressed in the skimpiest of bikinis and the highest of heels, like lambs for slaughter they await their fate, as one by one they are purchased by an undeserving man with the personality of a carrot and an ego the size of Jupiter.
These people quite literally know nothing about each other, yet they are initially partnered up and made to play house based solely on their physical compatibility. And like an obedient Barbie and Ken, for a while, they happily play the game. Relieved to have been chosen, glad to be wanted.
It doesn’t help that there is an astonishing amount of internalized misogyny being practiced amongst the women themselves. Constantly bitching about one another, looking for flaws, comparing the size of their assets, and trying to get one up on each other, it seems that many of them are actually convinced that their self-worth lies in their physical appearance or their ability to be chosen by a man.
I’ll never forget the shock of watching the aftermath of a villa challenge, in which Millie had kissed Erin’s partner, Eden, as part of a game. As a result, Erin viciously lashed out at Millie, and proceeded to tell the viewers at home that she wasn’t in the slightest bit threatened by her as she believed herself to be „a hundred times better“ because Millie, quote Erin, has ’small tits, small lips, and pointy little eyes‘. In other words, Erin is confident that Millie will not take her man because she believes herself to be physically more attractive.
This isn’t to deny that some of the islanders do make genuine connections, which I’m sure they do. But in my opinion, it isn’t correct that this show is named after love. It’s attraction and lust that brings most of these individuals together, not actual love. Being attractive may entice a partner, but as we have seen by the very low success rate of lasting couples from Love Island, it won’t win you a boyfriend or girlfriend that will stick around for the long term.
Attraction has a sell-by date, whereas love can last infinitely
Perhaps I’m stating the obvious, but reflecting on this show struck a chord with me about beauty, and the incredible importance that society has placed on possessing it in the capitalist form in which it was created. Ie, a pretty face, curves in the right places, a flat stomach and plump lips. Everywhere we go, we are reminded of it. On billboards, on the sides of buses, on our social media feeds, in conversations with our friends, and of course, on our televisions.
Society has sold us the message that if we manage to possess what it has defined as „beautiful“ then we will be worthy of love, worthy of happiness.
When in reality, being physically ‚attractive‘ doesn’t have as much power as we think it does. Far from it. In fact, if someone believes that being ‚beautiful‘ on the outside is all they are ever going to need, they will end up dettering partners, not attracting them. Even though I accept that I have my own insecurities that I need to unpack, I’ve come to realize that beauty is an odd thing because it can’t be defined.
I have begun to understand that real beauty doesn’t have much to do with what you look like, either
As cheesy as it sounds, it really is in the eye of the beholder. It is to do with who you are as a person, what you believe, how you carry yourself, and how you care for others.
Beauty is feeling healthy, and knowing that you are treating your body and mind with respect.
Beauty is not constantly worrying about what you look like but just having fun in the moment.Beauty is understanding that ‚imperfections‘ like a bump in your nose, a flabby stomach or crooked teeth are part of what makes you attractive, because they’re what make you, you. Beauty is being a genuine person and being kind to people. Beauty is standing up for yourself and what you believe in. Beauty is being happy.
This afternoon I decided to ask myself a new question. How am I ever supposed to be happy with myself if I am constantly defining my beauty by the standards that society has created for me?
Well, the answer is, I can’t. It’s about learning to create your own beauty, love yourself inside and out, and realize that the ‚perfect body‘ just does not exist.