This week the Australian government announced that it was going to back a voluntary ‘body image’ code that aims to encourage and support magazines and fashion retailers to adopt a healthy body image standard. The code is pushing for more diversity in body shape and ethnicity within the beauty industry and hopes to ban the use of dangerously thin models and that is all good. But will it help?

We have all been there, all felt rubbish after seeing impossibly good-looking girls and boys gracing the fashion pages with their legs up to their arm pits, their fab skin and their flat tummies. We have all felt inadequate and we have all agonised over these emotions. However, for most of us the realization that we do not fit the tight requirements of the modelling world is no big surprise, we had an inkling that was the case when our school friends told us that our hair was rubbish.  This shard of thought penetrated deeper when we didn’t get picked as the lead in the school play and the nail went into the coffin when our clothes hit double digits.  Our destiny is not in fashion modelling, we weren’t going to be princesses and live in a castle and we certainly couldn’t fly. 

Fairy stories 0, adulthood 1

But not everyone trod that path.  Many of us carry  emotional baggage that weighs more than those poor old models, models that are now ‘out of fashion’ and I am not sure that our load will lighten any with this news.

You see the problem with body image is that it is a projection of ones sense of self. If you feel vulnerable, fake, old, fat, skinny, tall, small, round, flat or just plain a ‘code’ will remain just that – rules that require translating, rules that need understanding and rules that don’t immediately fit.  What I mean is this,  the mindset of ‘self hate’ is not likely to dissipate just because it is harder to find pictures of skinny models. Yes you may find it less stressful to read a magazine or look at a billboard but that’s it. Your hunger for comparisons and your need to ‘measure up’ will most likely find another muse on which to focus its attention. Shape shifting! 

So it won’t work?

Well that’s not all wrong as we are affected at one level by the images we see and the culture that surrounds us so setting a more realistic and healthier bench-mark is a move in the right direction – especially for those within the modelling industry. However that alone will not solve our problem.

Positive body image does not come from without, it comes from within and self-esteem is best learned by doing, feeling and understanding in a deep and connected way.  Models in magazines, on runways and in adverts are just a veneer albeit a very one-dimensional one and you can’t learn about the heart by picking at the skin.  A code is a great start but let’s not sit back with a ‘job done’ smile on our faces. If we really want men and women to indulge in a bit of self-love we need to dig a bit deeper and when we do we will be able to enjoy beauty in all its forms without prejudice and without our baggage trolley.

Will the Barbie look go out of fashion?