The diet industry is built upon the idea that there is one good body. One right body. One beautiful body. The plastic surgery industry is positioned to help you come as close as possible to that one good, right, beautiful body should the diet industry fail you. Photos and film footage of the one good body are everywhere, and we cannot help but absorb them.

But if variety is the spice of life, if genetic diversity is essential to species survival, if different is good, then why do we believe it? Why do we believe that the traits that make us unique are bad, that they’re “flaws,” that they must be changed or eradicated? Why do we believe that we must strive for physical homogeneity? Why do we believe that there is one good body, one right body, one beautiful body?

My hope is that – with enough hard work and passionate rhetoric and conscious action – we can change the paradigm. That once the notion of the one good body is finally revealed to be a hoax, we will reconnect with our physical selves and appreciate what we have instead of longing for what we don’t. That we’ll finally get a more accurate representation of humanity, a broader idea of beauty, a deeper understanding of healthy, a truly diverse view of life. That we’ll see variety for what it truly is: A blessing.

Bodies are valuable, gorgeous, useful, adaptable, and downright miraculous. All of them. Never believe anyone who tries to convince you that there is one good body, one right body, one beautiful body. All bodies are good and right and beautiful. And that includes yours.

Images courtesy (clockwise from top left) the frog’s eyebrowscorazones rojosblack dress projectannaliviaplurabellebloomieSweetNee.

Originally posted 2012-03-20 06:17:13.

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23 Responses to “Variety”

  1. Rocquelle

    Love this Sally!! Our bodies are all uniquely different for a reason, and we should embrace that instead of striving for some horrid ideal.

  2. Gail

    “Bodies are valuable, gorgeous, useful, adaptable, and downright miraculous. All of them. Never believe anyone who tries to convince you that there is one good body, one right body, one beautiful body.”

    I completely agree with these statements and applaud you for posting them. The subconscious learns by repetition, the more we hear it the more it sinks in.

    I am no fan (at all) of the diet industry, but did want to chime in to say that some of our size variety isn’t so much the result of genetic diversity as it is the result of being victimized by a heavily subsidized industrial food supply that skews our buying power so that it’s less expensive to buy empty carbs than it is to buy nutrient dense locally grown meat and vegetables.

    Yes, we’re all beautiful, and, if we want to feel our best, yes we each absolutely have the responsibility of educating ourselves regarding nutrition and exercise.

    • Tara

      I’m in wholehearted agreement with your last 2 paragraphs. We have a rampant obesity problem in the U.S. that has much more to do with our eating habits (brought about by the government subsidization that you described) and sedentary habits (brought about from urban/suburban sprawl) than with genetics. You don’t see the same rates of obesity in many other parts of the world who eat differently and move more.

      While I agree that there is no single “right” body, I do think good health and nutrition should be a goal for all of us. I know I can do better in this area and strive to do so. Although I’m happy with myself and don’t have body image issues, I know I need to shed a few lbs and tone up a bit in order to be my best self. I think you can love yourself at the same time as you recognize that you can do better.

      • Sal

        I agree that health and good nutrition are important. I also agree that you can love yourself while wishing to make changes to your self or body. However, I disagree that weight dictates health or happiness in all cases, or that people must meet an arbitrary guideline for fitness to be considered well. Or to be happy and feel marvelous about their bodies. It’s not just weight. It’s not just size. Neither health nor self-love is that simple.

        • Tara

          Agreed. I don’t think there is any hard/fast weight/fitness standard that works for everyone. I am just hesitant to say that we should all just be satisfied with ourselves exactly how we are (whether we’re talking about body, education, emotional development, etc.). There’s almost always room for improvement, but we need to love ourselves all along that path to improvement and love ourselves enough to make us want to improve.

          • Eden

            I appreciate this conversation. For me, there is a fine line between being happy with myself, and being lazy about how I take care of myself. I don’t want to become complacent, but on the other hand I don’t want to beat myself up because I’m not a size 8, and likely never will be.

            I like that Sal points out that variety of hair and skin colors, textures, ages, asthetics all make for beautiful variety and all those different kinds of beauty can and should be applauded.

            One of the loveliest ladies on my daily bus commute is a woman with the most shiny white hair, cut in an adorable pixie. I doubt she considers herself a style icon. But as I go grey, I hope I can be as sassy as she is.

  3. bubu

    Beautiful post. I think for many people it takes a serious brush with illness, injury or death to start to appreciate the body they have. I’m trying to appreciate mine while having had the good fortune not to experience those things.

  4. M

    The more I became attuned and observant of nature, through techniques like photography and simple quiet walks, the more I became loving and accepting of the variety of shapes, sizes and colors that everything comes in. Fill your views with nothing but the human-made, and I don’t think this sort of thinking comes as easily.

    I look at the beautiful, yellow, rolling hills in central California and see the beautiful curves of a woman’s body. I look at a forest of trees, look at how the light plays on them, the homes and food they provide and I can’t help but to see both their practicality and their variations and imperfections as beautiful. Watch how nature changes a view over the seasons and years and suddenly aging isn’t such a horrible experience. Most trees have to be established for a while until they find their space in life, and some of those trees are hundreds of years old and still going strong.

    • Sal

      M, I love this. We are so conditioned to fear aging, but you’re right: Nature shows us that many living beings only find their footing after years and years of experience.

  5. Kate K

    Ahh, I needed to read this today Sal. Thank you. With summer fast approaching, I feel like all I see are articles for getting ready for swimsuit season and getting ready to go sleeveless and getting ready to fight cellulite for shorts season. Looking at my summer clothes, it’s a struggle trying to just be happy to wear them, not worry about needing to do work to make my body “ready” to wear them.

    • JenFin

      Kate, may I suggest this brilliant post by Viginia Sole-Smith? It’s bikini-specific, but it seems pertinent to your comment.

      I just spent the past week thinking about the post every day because I went on a beach vacation (of my own free will!) and was faced with wearing a swimsuit basically all the time. I have some serious hang-ups about my stomach and how it looks, and I completely feel your struggle. And as I was lying on the beach chair worried about how much stomach looked, I started looking at the other women on the beach in their bikinis. Some of whom admittedly looked to me like they were straight out of a magazine, but others who had larger thighs or small breasts or stomachs like mine or even bigger and cellulite and wrinkles and despite all of it they stilled looked great. Because like Sal says, we don’t all look exactly the same. Looking at the variety of real people wearing clothes and having a good time on the beach was incredibly freeing to me. Okay, so my body doesn’t look how I might like exactly. But it’s still fine. It’s just one of the many shapes of bodies, and they’re all fine. By the end of the vacation I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the way I look, but definitely comfortable. Because I can have a largish spare tire and still be gorgeous in my bikini. Because being worried about how I look should in no way influence the fun I have on my vacation.

  6. Caitlin

    I love this! I feel so heartbroken when I see people hate themselves for failing to live up to superficial, arbitrary standards of beauty, instead of recognizing what an opportunity we’ve been given with our bodies and this life. I can’t imagine many of us will reach the end of our lives and find that our great regret has been that we didn’t manage to lose those “last ten pounds” or whatever.

  7. Stacy @ Stacyverb

    So true! I get most of my style inspiration from personal style and/or sewing blogs these days, so when I do actually look through a fashion magazine, it’s always a bit disorienting to see how much the same all the models look. I’m much more interested in seeing how women express their own style and creativity when they’re not being paid to look a certain way.

    • Wendy

      I’ve noticed this too, Stacy. When I look at fashion magazines now there is a blandness to them that I never noticed before.

  8. reva

    OMG! I just watched a movie last night about genetic ‘perfection” where if you had a percieved “flaw” you were dirt! of course Uma Thurman and some other perfect guy star we the leads!

  9. sigourney

    I’m working for a European nature preservation organisation. And it just occurred to me that we build green pathways for wild animals of one isolated population to mix with their species in another isolated population so genetic diversity can happen. If we know that’s good for wild animals why should diversity be bad for us? Looking at animals it’s exactly their individuality we find appealing and attractive. We look for the differences!

  10. Lynn

    Why is it so hard to acknowledge that some women are born beautiful? That is how they are made, it is mother nature. Humans appreciate beauty, whether it is in other people, in nature, or art, or whatever. There is nothing wrong about being beautiful.

    No matter how much you say it, some people will never be beautiful, myself included, but they can be stylish, kind, loving, and be loved. I am sorry that some people just hate themselves too much. Get out of it. You have a purpose in life.

    • Sal

      Indeed, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful. But I, personally, refuse to accept that beauty is an absolute, or objective. Ideas of physical beauty have changed over the years, and will continue to change. Beauty is subjective, and I prefer to live in a world where every person I see holds some beauty.

    • Victoria

      The problem is when beautiful women are valued only for their beauty by the ones they love, it leaves them with a sense of very low self esteem when this is the only way they know to value themselves. Unfortunately, when our society has come to value women using beauty as it’s only measure, collectively women suffer. I remember being a little girl and when my sister was told she was beautiful. I told myself, “then I’ll be smart!” So happy I did!

    • M

      I think of it this way… some people’s beauty is easier to access to the larger masses. Others have beauty that is more personal, subtle or requires knowing the person better. Some really lucky people have both types of beauty.

      Knowing how to love is beautiful to me. I can never be angry at my pet rat, a tiny animal that trusts me despite our differences in sizes… that’s beautiful to me. Seeing how specialized a hummingbirds body and beak work and tune the animal for a very specific lifestyle is beautiful. It’s all a matter of perspective and I think any desirable trait can be beautiful.

  11. Victoria

    I agree! Hollywood and the fashion industry also focus on “ideal beauty”, missing the point that we are all beautiful in our own unique ways. The Dove commercials are a great example of trying to break this stereotype. Recently, I learned the reason the fashion industry desires very thin models is so when they wear new designs, the clothes will, “fall like they are on a hanger” so women can imagine the clothes on themselves more easily. Style doesn’t necessary mean you need to have a thin body – I believe it means that you feel fabulous in the size and shape you’re in.
    Love your blog and look forward to reading more!

  12. Chris

    I applaud you and what you do. I am 51 years old and have had a poor self esteem and body image my entire life. I wish your website was around 25 years ago. Keep up the wonderful work!