Our idea of personal beauty is significantly influenced by people in our lives. Their reflective appraisals sometimes affect the way we look at ourselves. More over our culture plays a big part in our self-concept of beauty.Our cultural conformity of acceptable beauty categorises people into attractive or unattractive based on physical attributes. The expectation of beauty alters our self-concept of what is desirable. Trying to adapt to what is culturally acceptable seems impossible for most people to conform. This may lead to eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, depression and suicide for people who are perceived to be differently configured. Can human beings ever appreciate non-perfect examples of themselves? Can we change the narrow perception of beauty to allow for the full acceptance of people with disabilities?
The beauty industry must be blamed for people’s unrealistic standards of physical beauty. Television, movies, magazines even social media are bombarding us with what should be the perfect look or body image. This idealistic and unobtainable body image creates guilt in people who are not meeting the said standard. If it’s almost impossible for healthy people to reach this goal, what more to people with disabilities? Can you imagine the extreme ramifications of cultural standard of beauty to people who are physically different due to disability or injury?
People with disability are perceived to be “different” and sometimes inferior. They face these challenges daily which create negative effects on their self-esteem and body image. Disability is the inability to perform major life activities because of physical or mental impairment. Physical disabilities range from vision and hearing impairments to orthopaedic, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders. Mental disabilities include both psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairments. People with disability need intellectually disabled support to have equal access to public facilities, education, health care, employment and housing.
Society associates masculinity with athleticism, independence and strength. Men with physical disabilities especially those who rely on devices such as wheelchairs, canes, crutches and artificial limbs to obtain mobility have difficulty living up to this masculine ideal. This wide spread perception often affects the self-esteem of men with disability. Most of them struggle with negative body image causing them to question their own masculinity and desirability. Women with disabilities share the same struggles. They not only deal with physical impairments but also with the lower status of being a female in the society. Disabled women who do not conform to the ideal feminine beauty displayed in the media may perceive themselves as unattractive. Disabled women who embraced this view often create barriers to forming intimate relationships.
It is important to challenge the widespread unrealistic image of beauty to change our negative perception of ourselves. This will empower us to expand our definition of beauty to include all shapes, sizes and colours to reshape our self-concept. Let us start to recognise our own beauty to improve our body image. We can change our perception of beauty by setting our own standard. First we have to be comfortable in our skin.By so doing we appreciate the non-perfect example of our self and we replace our ideal concept of beauty by having a beautiful character. Show the world what you are made off. Whatever your passions, your beliefs, your ethnicity, or your disability, be proud of who you are and display it to the world without shame.