Camila Cabello’s recent Instagram post was full of relatable experiences about judging your body even though you know you shouldn’t and the harm that online fitness culture has on our perspective of health.
The pressure to look a certain way is now no longer just about being slim. Instead, social media trends and the normalisation of excessive fitness habits mean we are now expected to be the healthiest, curviest-in-the-right-places and happiest versions of ourselves at all times.
That affects all of us – even those who seemingly “look good”, as singer and actor Camila Cabello perfectly articulated in a recent Instagram post.
Cabello began the post by explaining how, when at a certain beach in Miami, she always gets papped in her bikini – and social media’s narrow view of “healthy” bodies means she ends up judging herself.
“I’ve worn bikinis that were too small and paid no mind to how I looked, then saw pictures online and comments and been so upset. I reminded myself when it impacted my self-esteem that I was thinking the culture’s thoughts and not my own. A culture who has gotten so used to an image of what a ‘healthy’ women’s body looks like that is completely not real for a lot of women.
“[People use] Photoshop, restrictive eating, over-exercising and choosing angles that make our bodies look different than how they are in the moment and in their natural form, when we take a deep breath, when we eat a meal, when we allow the waves to tussle us around.”
It’s an important reminder of the fact that bodies fluctuate, but most crucially it’s an eye-opening statement about how comparison culture leaves us tearing our own bodies apart. That can be so insidious that even those who have worked hard to overcome body shame can be drawn into it, including Cabello.
“[I] listen to podcasts on intuitive eating, follow women who accept their cellulite, stretch marks, bellies, bloating and weight fluctuations… and still, I’m a single woman in her 20s in the middle of a shit ton of promo and I want to feel like I look “good”.
“Intellectually, I know what I look like doesn’t determine how healthy, happy or sexy I am. Emotionally, the messaging I get from our world is loud in my own head,” she continues.
That is a relatable dichotomy for most women who know that we are fine just the way we are yet feel the pressure to change. In her post, Cabello went on to explain the lengths she goes to look a way that society has told her is acceptable, and why it doesn’t actually make her feel better, saying: “I got a new bikini, a whole fuckin cute outfit, put lip gloss on, and didn’t eat anything too heavy before going in the ocean cause I knew it was gonna be basically a whole photoshoot.
“I held my core so tight my abs hurt and didn’t breathe and barely smiled and was so self-conscious of where the paps were the whole time I couldn’t let go and relax and do what we’re meant to do when we go out into nature.
“I looked at a group of toddlers giggling with excitement at the waves knocking them over – no sunglasses, no jewelery, no self-consciousness, just the innocence of children – which is the feeling I have always gone into nature for. I knew I looked “good” in the pictures and thought I would feel accomplished and yet I’ve never had a worse time at the beach. I felt the emptiness and sadness of our culture’s thoughts that became my thoughts.”
She finished with an important message that we can all learn from, writing that this vision of “health” we are all striving for is pointless if we are hating ourselves the whole time.
“I wanted to talk about this because we see pictures of women and praise them for looking good, for looking fit or “healthy”, but what is health if you are so fixated on what your body looks like that your mental health suffers and you can’t enjoy your life? Who am I trying to look attractive for and am I even attractive to myself if I can’t let loose and relax and have fun and be playful on a beautiful day at the beach?
“I’m not yet at the point in my journey where I can not give a fuck… all the therapy, all the inner work is to try and get back to feeling like 7-year-old me on the beach. I’m mourning her today. Happy, silly, breathing, pretending to be a mermaid, FREE.”
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).