Actress Christina Hendricks has just been named Esquire magazine's "Best Looking Woman in America." Does this mean voluptuous is the new black? What a relief, I get really sick of the body police giving Jessica Simpson flack for gaining a few pounds or ripping on Kim Kardashian’s big booty. FYI to all you women out there, curves are back in, at least for today. Rail thin women, on starvation diets, exercising 15 hours a week in pursuit of a stick thin figure, obviously aren’t healthy but they also seem to have forgotten the fact that life is supposed to be about……living. Research on the topic finds that most men prefer a healthy woman with some softness, an hour-glass figure and round curves over ripped abs, buns of steel and 6% body fat.
So why is the perception of what constitutes beauty changing? Very simply, perceptions always change based on the times. Several hundred years ago pleasantly plump was in because only the upper classes had enough to eat to become plump. One recent and oft cited reason is the economic downturn. During the boom, everyone was working and making/borrowing enough money to be able to focus on unrealistic goals like a bigger (or second) house, vacation in India, third car and a model-like body. Now that unemployment is pushing 10% we’re much more likely to focus on the simple (and more important) things in life.
While that may be true, I think it’s much more basic than that. You need to look no further than the fashion industry. Why do styles change from season to season and year to year? Quite simply because humans embrace change, all in the effort to be “in” and “better” and “cool”. It’s like an exclusive club, demonstrating that you are in the know and oh so hip. You look around and feel a connection to those other hip souls and you feel vastly superior to those that aren’t keeping up. It’s one more way of setting us apart, making us feel ‘special.’ These fashion trends are very often a result of what models and actors are wearing. Then the media goes along for the ride and the next thing you know, a new trend is born. The same holds for body image. A few superstars get press for their healthy, well fed look and BOOM, voluptuous is back in.
Here’s the deal: beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Not only that, the standards by which beauty is judged are very fickle indeed. The moral of the story is to thine own self be true. Don’t try to force your body to fit into a box labeled by the media as “ hot.” Labels are subject to change. Eat smart, exercise in moderation, get a good night's sleep, and most importantly embrace yourself for who and what you are. The number one trait found to be attractive by the opposite sex in numerous studies, much more important than looks, is self confidence; and to have that you’ve got to like yourself. And why not, you never know, your look may just be the Next Big Thing.
Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and frequent guest on FoxNews.com's "The Strategy Room." For more, visit his Web site: Dr.DaleArcher.com.
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