Olympian Ilona Maher Is Reminding People That No Body Is Perfect

The athlete shared a video featuring an unfiltered look at her body to prove a point.

 Ilona Maher
Getty Images.

A reminder in case you need it: The perfect body doesn't exist.

It can be easy to lose sight of that thanks to the prevalence of altered images of supermodels and other public figures (most of whom have the same slender body type) in magazines, billboards, and social media. Societal ideas about what bodies "should" look like loom large, and it can feel impossible to escape from underneath them at times — even now, as the media is beginning to include more body diversity.

However, rugby player Ilona Maher is trying to change that. The athlete recently shared a video on TikTok and Instagram featuring a presumably unedited, 360-degree look at her body to make a point about body image and acceptance. Maher is Olympian, a world-class athlete whose body is capable of incredible feats. Her body (as well as everyone else's) is something to be celebrated — regardless of how close it is to an outdated idea of "perfection," she explains in her posts.

"Hey everyone, just your monthly reminder that this is the body of a professional athlete," says Maher in the video. "This is the body of an Olympian. It's not perfect. It's not completely lean, it's not completely toned, but this body is amazing, and it does amazing things for me."

Maher turns in a circle to show what her body looks like from all angles while wearing a sports bra and athletic shorts. She doesn't strategically pose and try to alter the way her body looks. 

"There isn't one body type for female athletes or for women," continues Maher. "So today, I want you all to look in the mirror, appreciate what you got, realize what it does for you, and remember you're beautiful."

Moves like this go a long way when it comes to dismantling the idea of the "perfect body," and Maher's followers are applauding her for it. On TikTok, the athlete's video has more than 1.2 million views, and fans are commenting words of support on both TikTok and Instagram.

"Please keep pushing and demonstrating this attitude," writes someone in the comments section on Instagram. "As a competitive athlete, I see all body types competing at a high level. Yet, I believe non-athletes are just being force-fed what athletes are 'supposed' to look like," they continued. "We don’t need perfection, we need real," added a TikTok user.

The potential value of Maher's posts and others that promote body positivity and acceptance is huge. A staggering 8 in 10 girls compare the way they look to images they see on social media, according to a report from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. What's more, 50 percent of girls reported that the unrealistic "beauty" filters that are so present on social media damage their self-esteem.

Alternatively, the way Maher's recent video promotes the idea of appreciating your body for what it can help you do, rather than what it looks like, can have a more positive impact on how women and girls view themselves. In fact, looking at "body positive" social media posts is associated with improved mood, body satisfaction, and body appreciation compared to looking at posts featuring "thin-ideal" bodies and "appearance-neutral posts," according to research published in the journal of New Media & Society in 2019.

So, give it up for Maher for demonstrating that bodies don't need to fit a limiting, unrealistic, outdated idea of perfection to be amazing. Athlete or not, her message is inspiring and really can make a difference.

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