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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Exercise not required

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Opinions

In this day and age of extremely misleading media, people are often hyper aware of their outward appearance, and many feel pressured to look a certain way. There are many diet programs, exclusive gym memberships and just generally idiotic products out there, all aimed at helping the populace slim down. In my eyes, their goal is misguided.

Yes, it’s true that the obesity rate in America has skyrocketed in the last few decades. The United States leads the pack of obese countries, with 35.7 percent of American adults considered obese in 2010. Health is certainly a priority. I would say it is in most people’s interest to stay healthy in order to live a longer life. But, health does not always correspond to the shape of your body. A healthy body comes in all different shapes and sizes.

Everyone should love their body. If you find fault with your body, that’s your prerogative. No one else should be afforded the right to pass judgment on another’s appearance. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen. It seems everyone is subjected to someone else’s standards nearly every day. It’s not fair, and it’s not right. The tendency to judge other people is inherited fairly early on. From childhood we are all granted the often embarrassing trait of brutal honesty. Young children see the world with unbiased eyes: They state the facts as they see them. Children do not judge, they observe. I once had a 3-year-old ask me why I had big eyebrows. I responded, “Everyone’s eyebrows are different.” As she looked around with wonder in her eyes, she realized that truth. She turned back to me and said, very matter-of-factly, “You’re right! Everyone’s eyebrows are different.” Yet, somewhere down the line, traits and qualities are given positive and negative connotations in our minds. We are programmed to judge others based on some arbitrary set of criteria, likely intoned in us by the media. It only gets worse with age. In my experience, the most cynical and judgmental people I’ve ever met have all been over the age of 65. The moral is: You shouldn’t pass judgment on others, especially not for how they look. Try your best to escape this ever-consuming need to evaluate a person’s worth by their figure. If someone judges you, ignore them; They have no right to appraise what they do not know nor understand. Do not let other people dictate how you feel about yourself.

I truly believe that loving who you are is the key to happiness. I’m not saying you have to think you’re perfect in every way; Flaws are inherent parts of who and what we are. However, I think it’s perfectly wonderful to embrace the flaws you see in yourself and love yourself more for them. If you love who you are, then there is no reason to change. Don’t let others pressure you to work out or to diet. If you want to do either because you feel it will help you love yourself more, then go for it! Do what makes you happy.

I think a lot of people put pressure on themselves to look more muscled or to slim down in order to find a significant other. There’s some innate voice that nags in the back of the brain saying that you have to look a certain way in order for someone to like you or find you attractive. That nagging voice is ridiculously incorrect. I believe that if you love your body, others will too. There is so much more to wanting to date someone than just his or her outward appearance. People fall in love with people, not the bodily manifestation of that person. If everyone looked like a combination of his or her personality, intelligence, humor and goodness as a human being, the world would be a simpler place. But the world does not work that way. We have to work a bit harder to discern whether or not we like a person, using more than our eyes.

When you first meet a person, all you really know is their physical appearance. It’s a bit unnerving. But, at least in my experience, as you get to know a person, the way they look changes a bit. By discovering a person’s personality and learning more about who they are, how they appear changes. Obviously, they do not actually change physically, but how you see them changes. I think that realizing someone is a wonderful person makes him or her more attractive and beautiful to you, and realizing that someone is not such a nice person does the opposite. Outward appearance is entirely irrelevant when you know what their inner appearance looks like.

Loving who you are is the key to happiness. If people judge you for the imperfections you love about yourself, then clearly they cannot see beyond the superficial. Anyone worth knowing, will care about you for the person you are on the inside, so the only person who needs to be pleased with your outside is you.