We are keen to give a platform to the work of exceptional young writers who show engagement with the aims of the publication. This powerful opinion piece on the subject of Body Image is written by 13 year old British schoolgirl, Preesha Gehlot.

I strongly believe we need to change the way people think about body image, but for that to happen, we need to change what it means to be beautiful.

In my younger years, at about the time I learnt to walk, I used to marvel at my reflection in the mirror a lot. I would twirl and giggle and smile at myself. And that made me wonder… when did I stop marvelling at my reflection?

When does it become suddenly okay for us to not love the way we look?

72% of girls avoid ordinary activities because they feel awful about their looks. Natural beauty in all its varied forms is being masked by the unrealistic expectations of beauty today. Social media has brainwashed girls into believing that life will be better for them if they are thinner, taller, prettier.

Where do these beliefs come from? Living in an image-obsessed culture has given dominance to size zero models on the catwalk. Adverts and airbrushing is very popular, and trends like #thigh gap, #bikinibridge, #thinspiration and #proana (which means pro-anorexia) shows that girls are trying to achieve the impossible figure that models in photo-shopped adverts have. And research shows that children see almost 600 of these adverts every week in the UK.

70% of 11-17 year olds girls’ number one wish in life is to be thinner. Young females are starving themselves to death and society is ruining the ideals of healthy eating so much that on average 1.6 million people are affected by eating disorders in the UK. 89% of these unfortunate people are female.

We need to ditch the diet.

The diet industry claims to offer solutions to the ‘crisis of losing weight’. However, there is overwhelming research stating that it is the process of banning food which leads to weight gain, meaning that diets ultimately make you put on weight anyway. Diets are set up to fail us for the very reason that we’ll return to them again and again, making money for the inventors.

Can we make a difference? Can we show girls all around the world that beauty isn’t something that’s reflected just from the outside? I believe we can.

Fat, thin, small or tall, we are all beautiful. Let’s influence others to feel beautiful. Let’s change what it means to be beautiful.

With thanks to Endangered Bodies UK whose research I used in the writing of this article. All statistics relate to the United Kingdom.  ©The Heroine Collective 2015 – Present, All Rights Reserved.
Preesha Gehlot

Written by Preesha Gehlot

Preesha is a 13 year old student who lives in the UK.

Image by Tiffany

[Public domain]