A ‘new normal’ should mean a new outlook on body image


The body image ideals we carried into the pandemic were unrealistic and unhealthy. As we slowly emerge from this public health crisis, let’s establish a new normal for body image, too. 

Spending the last year and a half inside created an interesting contradiction.

While days spent at home meant there was no longer a need to get up each day and dress in world-ready clothing, lockdowns were also a reprieve from external judgement. For some, self-isolation finally brought a sought-after relief from criticism—internal and external.

Body image isn’t static—it’s a fluid, shifting perception of ourselves. Unfortunately, pre-pandemic ideals have consistently failed to acknowledge this fact, promoting a select few ‘right’ ways to look amongst many ‘wrong’ ones.

But we can change our mindsets.

On-campus at Queen’s, how we present ourselves has always played a key role in how we’re perceived. When it comes to clothing, style, and self-expression, the easiest route has been to adhere to the status quo—a status quo that caters almost exclusively to upper-middle class straight-size people.

Let’s use the time we spent away from campus to foster a shift in perspective. At home by ourselves, we had an opportunity to figure out what makes us feel our best and most authentic selves regardless of what others think. We need to carry that forward.

We’re slowly working away from a single accepted standard for fashion. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Mainstream fashion is a social construct that’s been used to judge and marginalize people who don’t fit the accepted body norms and forms of self-expression. If we return to pre-pandemic standards, we return to a source of discrimination for folks including plus-size people, people with disabilities, and queer people.

Just like our own self-perception is always changing, our bodies are always changing too.

Experiencing weight changes amidst a pandemic can teach us how our bodies take care of us in different situations and how we can best care for ourselves to feel healthy and well.

Most importantly, these changes are normal.

Self-care isn’t maintaining a consistent self-image in front of friends and family—it’s being able to support yourself in times of crisis. Each adverse situation has its own normal. The pandemic gave us the chance to feel comfortable with ourselves and emphasized the importance of maintaining that normal as we get back out into the world.

Being ‘perfect’ isn’t healthy, but accepting yourself and the support you need is.

It’s vital we recognize pre-pandemic body image standards as harmful and inaccessible for most. As the up-and-coming generation, we must break the boundaries of traditional views of body image and self-expression to include personal comfort and success at home, at school, and at work.

Comparing things before and after the pandemic is useless. We’re not reverting to old standards, and we certainly don’t have to return to ‘normal’ to be healthy.

—Journal Editorial Board

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