Lifestyle

Body & Mind: Weighty Issues

Women are looking at themselves from the eyes of others leading to chronic self-surveillance

Tarika Sandhu

In the zeitgeist of our times a woman is showered with constant inputs from various quarters of her life regarding the ideal identity she needs to establish. When a woman is evaluated only as a body, she loses her individuality. Although norms of culture have varied considerably with time, yet the   contemporary Indian urban society is inadvertently evaluating females largely “desirable” or “undesirable” based on stereotypical standards of physical attractiveness. Even harmless feedback from friends, family and sometimes, even strangers, unwittingly heightens the need for extra concern towards physical appearance overshadowing her inherent attributes such as talent and ability.

Body 3
Photo source: Trusted Clothes

Women come to view themselves through the lens of an external observer, habitually monitoring their own appearance whether in public or private settings. Women in modern societies are living by looking at themselves from the eyes of others which has been rightly termed as “double consciousness” leading to chronic self-surveillance. Beauty standards presented by media pressurize women to mindlessly conform to inconsiderate physical standards of evaluating oneself gradually damaging perceptions of self-worth.  Self-objectification thus results from an image-driven culture where popular media guides women to constantly see themselves as objects whose value can be enhanced by glossing the cover.

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Photo source: Femina

Clichéd notions of size zero figure, “thin is in”, “crash diets” are generally seen splattered across different media pointing towards this trend influencing a woman to view herself, predominantly, through an objectified social lens. The negative effects associated with self-objectification are body shame, appearance anxiety, bodily self-alienation, depression, disordered eating and lowered self-esteem, poor health related behaviours and strained social relationships. It has been silently corroding away the psyche of women who aim to be like mannequins possessing desirable proportions yet consequently become devoid of “life”.

Body 1
Photo Source: The Odyssey Online

With India emerging as one of the fastest growing economies (Highlights of economic survey of India, 2012-2013), the young population involved in the developmental strides is undergoing an identity transformation with self objectification spreading alongside like a silent epidemic under the garb of modernity and globalisation. Diametrically opposite to the need for self-objectification is the need for self-actualization. Self-actualized women rely on their deeper understanding of themselves, do not put on any pretence and possess an efficient perception of reality thus buffering against self-objectification.

Each time we apathetically judge a woman on her looks simply like the cover of a magazine, we retarded her journey to self actualisation. Let’s make our world more empathetic and encouraging by gently nudging women plagued by objectification to go beyond what the mirror tells them.

About the author

Tarika Sandhu is a Patiala-based psychologist and teaches at Punjabi University. She is currently working on a UGC project and writes on contemporary issues such as personality assessment, creativity and women’s issues, to list a few.

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13 comments

  1. Aptly put together..! Would be much better if women stop labelling each other merely on their physique and appearance…! One should feel comfortable and confident in their own skin which would go a long way in enhancing one’s self esteem..! Appreciate and respect womanhood and make this world a better and beautiful place for them ..!

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  2. Beautifully written mam.. in today’s world where women are on strike with men in every field even then they’re judged on their physical appearance..objectification and sexualization are faced at very young age by little girls which in turn affects their fragile minds.

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  3. Very lucidly written. Gives a good perspective on socio-cultural pressures on women in contemporary India. Lots to think about and reflect. We forget pointing a finger at someone means three fingers point back at ourselves. True freedom would mean women free themselves in their mind and not be bothered about how the society perceives them.

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  4. A very beautifully written article, proving insight into a very sensitive issue. Indeed a woman is under many pressures to conform to beauty ideals.
    Low body confidence is a global issue and should be dealt with the help of education, meaningful conversations and advocating change in how social media portrays appearance of a woman.

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  5. I spent good number of years in my life struggling to look beautiful and to get perfect shape. Through the process I even lost myself as I was constantly trying to see myself through the eyes of others and definitely it didn’t satisfy me enough. The standards that are set for perfect figure or beauty gets different after every second day. It’s just little time back I realized there is no epitome of beauty. We shouldn’t allow anybody to tell us what we should be doing about our body and looks. World is getting messier for the coming generations as they always try to live up to what celebs look like. Being plastic won’t help for better self image. It lies all within you. Very well written Ma’am.

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  6. The article is well written and highlights one of the major problems that plague the contemporary society. Although certain ideal standards of beauty have been set for men and women since time immemorial, with the advent of social media the issue has become more serious leading to various problems mentioned in the article. Adding to this, these standards are further encouraged in pursuance of a capitalist agenda by certain cooperation with the sole motive of creating demand to increase their profits without any care for social or moral responsibility.

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  7. Excellent topic and very well put together. A social issue that almost all women have to confront in their lives. Weight is used to hold a woman hostage by having her believe that she is no good if she does not fit the cookie cutter size. Which leads to low self confidence and lowered self esteem in women.

    Another big one is “fair & lovely”. Interestingly my 14yrs old daughter (born & being raised in US) pointed out to me on a very simple routine make up foundation shopping trip “Mamma here in America people never buy a shade lighter than your skin, they actually buy the shade of their skin or a shade little darker to make you look natural”. That made me think back “make up foundation was made to make us look fair” a concept we were raised around in our society in India (thankfully not home) and all the fair and lovely advertising.

    I feel we as women have so much more in our lives than the social mold we try to fit it. Just like actress Priyanka Chopra’s father once said “Don’t try to fit in the glass slipper………go and break the glass ceiling”, he was very wise in encouraging his daughter to accomplish what her capabilities allow.

    Lovely article, will look forward to more.

    Thank you Tarika. 👍🏼

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  8. Very rightly expressed.Goals of self-growth and self-actualization cannot be attained when one is obsessed with one’s looks.Self-realization comes with realising one’s potentials.In order to maintain mental health,it’s essential that we shift our focus inwards.
    Hoping to have more such thought provoking articles in future.

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  9. I am amazed with your zeal to talk about this aspect very actively now. I believe that the idea of beauty has been misunderstood with the physical beauty and artistic beauty. Physical appearance has been given more importance than morality and principals of a person. Surprisingly, mankind has centered its view till the physical appearance. Human itself is very unique and humanity makes it beautiful however seeing something as perfectly beautiful is somehow very terrifying. We are slowly transforming the world of beauty into a world of fear. If one starts looking at the broader picture then may be we would be able to see how painful it is to achieve that ideal standard of physical beauty. The idea of calling something beautiful was to refer something which is visually and emotionally pleasing and is unique in various perspectives. I somehow feel beauty is something which doesn’t need to be altered. This mistaken “ideal standard of beauty” we are struggling with these days is a graceful way to hide the compassion, strength, furious, funny side of a person and limiting the ideal to something which doesn’t even last with age.

    Like

  10. I am amazed with your zeal to talk about this aspect very actively now. I believe that the idea of beauty has been misunderstood with the physical beauty and artistic beauty. Physical appearance has been given more importance than morality and principals of a person. Surprisingly, mankind has centered its view till the physical appearance. Human itself is very unique and humanity makes it beautiful however seeing something as perfectly beautiful is somehow very terrifying. We are slowly transforming the world of beauty into a world of fear. If one starts looking at the broader picture then may be we would be able to see how painful it is to achieve that ideal standard of physical beauty. The idea of calling something beautiful was to refer something which is visually and emotionally pleasing and is unique in various perspectives. I somehow feel beauty is something which doesn’t need to be altered. This mistaken “ideal standard of beauty” we are struggling with these days is a graceful way to hide the compassion, strength, furious, funny side of a person and limiting the ideal to something which doesn’t even last with age.

    Like

  11. Beautifully written Mam….it is v informative article especially for girls….prefectly expressed d need of today’s world…keep writing Mam…m fan of ur informative article…

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  12. My beautiful friend Tarika has absolutely been spot on…women need to be less critical of themselves…they just need self appreciation for their skills rather than focus on their appearance.

    Like

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