Beauty is more than fitting into a pair of skinny jeans; it’s feeling self-love. Model Iskra Lawrence described the pressures people face in their personal journeys to feel beautiful in her recent TED talk.
The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) ambassador began by explaining the need for people to learn about the importance of appreciating their bodies, saying, “The most important relationship we have in our lives is the one we have with ourselves, and we’re not taught about it.” Lawrence believes people aren’t taught enough about how to maintain a healthy image of themselves, especially with advertisements and magazines constantly perpetuating the notion that the way people look is never good enough. Lawrence recognized the added pressure of social media as well, saying, “With the rise of social media, we literally have a weapon of mass destruction to our self-esteem [available] 24/7.”
Lawrence tackled the distortion of reality encouraged by social media, what she called “a curated, filtered, often airbrushed, and sometimes even lifestyle illusion,” and said that it is all too easy to believe that the illusion is real when holding it in the palm of your hand. “That’s why we need to be taught about these pressures,” Lawrence added.
In her work with the NEDA, the model has had the opportunity to see real changes in kids once they are faced with the impossible standards of perfection perpetuated by advertising. In her TED talk, she walks through the program’s process of having kids sift through magazines and pick out a picture of the ‘perfect body.’ Then, the young kids are told to analyze why they think that body is representative of perfection, whether it’s a hairstyle, a thigh gap, or anything else they see in the picture. The leaders of the program ask “Is that real?” and “Is that achievable?,” and they lead the kids to realize that it is not. After that, the leaders explain to kids about what would need to happen in order for them to actually look like the people in the pictures, asking, “What are the sacrifices and costs for you to try to attain this?” Most importantly, they remind the kids of how “detrimental [these sacrifices would be] to your mental and physical health.”
Lawrence challenged the audience to “imagine celebrating someone’s achievements, their accomplishments, their personality, their morals, and their values. To me, that’s beautiful.” To put this imagery into perspective, she spoke about the problematic inner monolog that reminds people of their insecurities when they look into a mirror. Lawrence stated that “we need to change that discussion,” and gave examples of how to do exactly that.
Lawrence recommended that people pick out 5 things they like about themselves when they look in a mirror, such as “I’m an amazing friend” or “I’m creative.” Next, people should pick out 5 things they love about their bodies “for what it does for [them]”, giving the example “I’m grateful for these hands because I was able to work as a seamstress and provide for my whole family.”
Lawrence made it clear that people’s journey to seeing themselves in a healthy light begins with appreciating their bodies for the purpose they hold and the joy they bring into their lives. She hopes to continue to encourage others to love themselves for more than their looks; for who they are as individuals.
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