Why Sia Cooper Photoshopped Herself to Match the "Perfect" Body Types Depicted Throughout History
"We've let society tell us how to look for years—it's nothing new."
Two years ago, Cassey Ho, the fitness diva behind Blogilates, created a timeline of "ideal" body types to show how arbitrary beauty standards can be. Inspired by Ho's post, Sia Cooper of Diary of a Fit Mommy created her own depiction of "perfect" bodies through the decades.
In a series of Instagram photos, Cooper Photoshopped herself to fit the "perfect" body standard of today and that of various times throughout history. To start, the mom of two focused on the roaring '20s—a time when the desired body type was "boyish," wrote Cooper.
Next, Cooper highlighted the '50s, noting that many women of the time idolized the curves of stars like Marilyn Monroe. Just a few years later, in the '60s and '70s, beauty standards totally changed: Many women strived to be "thin and girly" à la Twiggy, an English model who rose to fame during this time, shared Cooper.
A decade later, in the '80s, supermodels became "the it thing," wrote Cooper. Icons like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford made "lean and tall legs and an athletic body type" more appealing to the masses, explained Cooper.
Jumping to the '90s, the "waif look took over" once model Kate Moss made headlines for her "androgynous" body type, wrote Cooper. (Related: These Women Show Why the #LoveMyShape Movement Is So Freakin' Empowering)
Finally, Cooper highlighted what she calls the "postmodern beauty era" (aka today). "It's the era of J. Lo and the Kardashians, where big boobs and butts and flat tummies are on the rise," she wrote, noting that many women turn to plastic surgery to achieve these body types.
"It's no wonder why we are all so obsessed and screwed up with our self appearances," wrote Cooper. "We've let society tell us how to look for YEARS—it's nothing new."
Cooper says she felt inspired to share this message with her million-plus followers because she's personally felt the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards. "As a teen, the obsession with wanting to be thin led me to develop bulimia at age 14," she tells Shape. "Today, I still find myself comparing my body to other women, but I stop myself in my tracks because I know better. If you have social media, chances are that you've dealt with this, too."
Cooper hopes her post shows what a huge role the media plays in reinforcing these expectations of beauty, she shares. "In the past, it was ads and magazines that sparked what the ideal body should look like," she explains. "However, with social media, it's worse now. It is still considered 'weird' if a brand's campaign doesn't airbrush or alter its models. It still makes people feel uncomfortable when influencers decide to post their belly rolls and cellulite. With time, I hope this happens more and more so it won't be so taboo anymore. Our focus should be to look like ourselves and celebrating ourselves as we are." (Related: The #NormalizeNormalBodies Movement Is Going Viral for All the Right Reasons)
On the bright side, thanks to the body positivity movement, these unrealistic expectations of beauty are changing, slowly but surely, says Cooper. "I honestly wish body positivity was bigger when I was a teen because it would have saved me for ever thinking that I had to develop an eating disorder," she explains. "This is why I love sharing messages about body image because I know I have younger girls following me who've been conditioned to hate their bodies thanks to the celebrities they follow."
Still, Cooper understands how difficult it can be to practice self-acceptance, let alone self-love. Her advice? Focus on what your body has helped you accomplish in life, rather than just what it looks like, she says. "If you birthed a baby, celebrate that your body was badass enough to do that," she explains. "If all you did was wake up and get out of bed this morning, celebrate that, too. There are some people who literally cannot get out of bed without assistance because of physical limitations. It's easy to forget how amazing our own bodies are when the plethora of so-called 'perfection' is thrown at us." (Related: Amy Schumer Addresses Hollywood's Unrealistic Beauty Standards In New Netflix Special)
Cooper also suggests curating your social media feed so that it's empowering versus degrading. "To better help me avoid falling into the comparison trap, I simply unfollow anyone who makes me feel awful about my own body," she says. "And this past year, I made an effort to follow more body-positive people."
The ultimate takeaway is this: Morphing your body to fit an idealistic aesthetic is a lose-lose situation. As Cooper said herself in her post: "If you want to be truly happy, focus on self-acceptance and body love. Make this the decade you choose to forget what the media says and choose to love your own self as you are."