As with every one of my previous blogs, the views expressed are mine. It’s my opinion, not necessarily fact, although my opinions arise out of researched evidence and facts. You don’t have to take my word for it, and you don’t have to agree with me. The point of my blogs is to encourage discussion and debate.
For this blog, I want to discuss the differences between body dysmorphia, which covers dissatisfaction with your body generally or specific areas of your body and body dysphoria, the desire to change gender.
I freely admit I am body dysmorphic. I do a lot of the classic habits commonly associated with the disorder. I avoid mirrors, am super critical of various elements of my physique and always compare myself unfavourably with others.
Perhaps where I differ from other body dysmorphic people is I don’t chase after approval from my peers. I’ve gained a number of friends from different backgrounds and cultures through various social and networking opportunities and events. I’m a strong enough person to understand you cannot please everyone and not everyone will like you or want to associate with you, and that’s fine.
So, what’s the difference between wanting to make the best of yourself (and being dissatisfied with the results) and body dysmorphia? In my humble layman’s view, it’s a matter of degree. I would stress a person with body dysmorphia isn’t unhappy with their gender, only their physical appearance.
In my own case, I consider my physical self as constructed from all the left-over bits. My hands are almost bigger than my feet. The proportional difference between my hips and waist is greater than standard sizing, and my legs (of the well-built northern England variety) are longer than is proportional for my height, so buying trousers is a nightmare. I don’t think I need to go on any further; you understand my point.
I am certain I’m not the only one who is overly critical of their own physique, and while many are women, this isn’t merely a woman’s issue: men can be plagued with similar self-doubt.
What’s became apparent over the last forty years is the world of modelling is exclusively available only to those men and women who fit some very specific and narrow parameters. Very few men or women will have what it takes to become a professional model, yet increasingly, TV, the movies and social media bombard us with images and ideals that we (the average Joe or Jane) can attain the same physical perfection as the tiny percentage of people who fit within the narrow parameters of idealised human physical perfection.
I want to be clear at this point, I am no psychologist or psychiatrist. My qualification for passing opinion is merely that of an observer of life. However, it seems to me generationally, we the human race are raising our children to be increasingly centred on themselves.
Materially, the upcoming young people have ever greater expectations; they ask or even demand more things carrying ever higher monetary values. I believe I discussed the monetising of Society in my first blog.
The point I am trying to make is that, with greater self-interest and materialism comes the notion of striving for perfection, not only in terms of material ownership, but also with ourselves and our appearance in front of others.
The question arises, are we raising our children in such a way harsh reality strongly contrasts with their higher expectations: are we encouraging them to focus on achieving such a high bar it is actually far beyond their grasp. If this is the case, are we setting them on a path almost guaranteeing their failure?
Another question I want to address is whether raising children in a society which prizes high achievement and competition might have an adverse affect on them. Some people revel in competition and the fight to be the fittest or best at something. Others are perfectly happy with taking part in an activity they enjoy. Yet more fall somewhere in between the two. If a child is naturally gifted at something but not competitive, would society’s drive to achieve adversely affect the child?
Not every person is academically gifted. Yet society pushes year on year for greater academic achievement. There are record numbers of young people attending universities, yet not every job requires degree-level education. This is not to decry manual labour or lower-level jobs; there is a need for such workers, and those workers deserve respect for taking up the mantel of those roles.
I have highlighted some of the issues and pressures on the young today. It is far from an exhaustive list, and my point is today, young people are faced with a great deal more pressure and expectation than previous generations, which brings me to ask whether they have (or could have) such a detrimental effect, so as to impact the personality and development in youth to the point where a young person can be lost in a sea of conflicting issues and pressures until they don’t know which way is up.
In my opinion (and it is only my opinion), the young are being dealt a poor hand. On the one hand, they appear to have greater benefits and opportunities, but on the other, those same benefits and opportunities come at a huge cost. I think the pay-off is a tangled knot of confusion and misery, where young people can find themselves questioning how they think and feel about themselves. This is where they may possibly feel different from their peers, isolated, unsure and at this point may jump to the conclusion their biological gender is contrary to the gender they feel they should be.
The reason I question this is because there are more and more stories of young people heading down the path of gender reassignment, and as a society, we appear to be indulging the trend. What I question is whether other issues, such as body dysmorphia, may be at play. If not, who checks and investigates to ensure those who truly do wish to become gender reassigned actually are body dysphoric and don’t have some other mental condition.
It’s a very important question, because gender reassignment carries with it some very serious life consequences for those who go down this route. The concern is whether, having been gender reassigned in early life, a person might go on to suffer even greater and potentially catastrophic consequences, because at the moment, no-one really knows how the reality will pan out. It could be forty or fifty years before it becomes apparent what the real consequences might be. So perhaps the question should be whether gender reassignment is another social experiment foisted on the young?
23rd July 2023