Britney Spears was one of the women I compared myself to when I was in my awkward phase. In retrospect, I would say my awkward phase started when I turned 12, and I began to gradually grow out of it when I was past 23. But during that time, I was extremely conscious of my body (or rather, the appearance of my body) and I would compare myself to female celebrities: pop stars, actresses, and the models on the gigantic lingerie billboard ads around town.
Photos from that period prove that I was pretty lean and thin back then but for some reason I had got it in my head that my butt was too big, my stomach wasn’t flat enough and my boobs were too small. All wrong! Except maybe for that part about my boobs. But the photos show there was nothing wrong with my butt, and my stomach was so flat it was practically concave.
Somehow I still thought I was pear-shaped, literally, and seeing as I imagined other women were perfect under their clothes, I didn’t like showing my body in public. That’s why I didn’t go to swimming halls when I was in my most awkward phase. I kept trying to lose non-existent weight so that I would be trim enough to bear the public showers that are prerequisite for going to the pools.
When I eventually decided to just suck it up and go swimming, despite the fact that I hadn’t managed to get fit enough to be able to shower without shame, I was astonished to realise that I was the fittest girl in the sauna! There were dozens of women of various ages and no one, literally no one, was as perfect as I had thought they would be. Women’s bodies sacked, bulged and bloated in ways they never do in women’s magazines or in the H&M bikini ads. The only ones who managed to get pretty close to the beauty standards I had set for myself were girls under 11 years old, but they didn’t have boobs at all, so they didn’t really count. I started to feel rather good about myself, despite everything.
I’m not sure how my idea of what accounts as normal had become so warped. After all, I had grown up going to the sauna, naked, with family, friends and relatives. Most Finnish families have their own saunas, and usually families bathe together until the kids reach puberty and refuse to go to the sauna with the parent and the siblings of the opposite sex, so you’d think Finnish people, myself included, would have a pretty good idea about what other people look like when they’re naked.
Maybe I was more susceptible than others… or maybe the photoshopped pictures of perfect women send a really powerful message to the brain, a message that overrides common sense and previous knowledge of the world? I don’t know. But it’s really cathartic to see pictures like this one of Britney, before and after the standard image editing process.
Kudos to Britney for allowing that picture of her body to be published! As you can see, the edited Britney is noticeably slimmer than the real one, and naturally all imperfections like cellulite have been erased. The only body part that appears larger in the edited picture is the boob, which has been subtly enhanced. The real Britney has rather short legs compared to the length of her back, but that little flaw has been fixed by giving her a butt-lift in photoshop, and making her legs thinner, giving them a much more graceful, gazelle-like appearance.
Looking at this picture, I remembered fleetingly my old wish to have a body like Britney Spears. I always thought it was an impossible dream but if I accept the real Britney as my new beauty measuring stick, it’s only a matter of skipping a few meals and taking a brisk walk or two, and it’s a dream come true!