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#A4Challenge – another unrealistic beauty standard

self portrait showing how thin I am

I was going to write a fun and very non-serious post about my first self-tanning experience as my second blog post this week, but I decided to push it back until next week so that I could talk about something that has shocked the living shit out of me – another unrealistic beauty ‘challenge’. If you can even call it that.

On Monday afternoon I came across a post written on i-D called “terrifying viral hashtag challenges women to be thinner than a sheet of paper“. Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking “what the actual fuck?” right about now.

Now, as a woman who has struggled mentally with my weight my whole life – just to clarify, not because of what I think of my body, but because of other people’s perceptions and opinions – this really, really struck a chord.

I have been asked about my weight since I can remember. If it wasn’t my friends’ parents asking me if I eat enough, it was my high school’s shrink calling my father to her office because she thought I was starving myself. No, I am not joking.

But, alas, to everyone’s dismay I am just naturally thin. And no matter how much chocolate I eat (which is roughly three bars a week, by the way) or junk food I snack on during the day, I still weigh 50-freaking-kilograms.

The constant badgering and upset about my weight day-in and day-out was absolutely exhausting and more upsetting than anyone could imagine. I did not know why, as a teenager, I had to try and convince my teachers, my family members, my family doctor and even strangers that I was, in-fact, eating.

I am exhausted just typing all this out, to be honest. But it feels good at the same time.

Now, at 25-years old you will be shocked (I hope) to hear that my weight is still an issue. I get comments from the same people I have been getting comments from for years – regardless of how many times I have told them how they make me feel or how rude they are being – and from people I meet from the first time, and it has an impact on my self esteem and how I dress almost every single day of my life.

It impacted me so much that I used my studies – art and design at college, and photography at university – as an outlet to express myself and the way I felt about my body and food through the majority of my projects. I produced the three images featured in this article for two of my projects, with so many more I wish I could share.

Self portrait of me grabbing my skin and baring my ribs portraying that beauty is only skin deep

Image credit: Claire Henderson

So, now that I have given you an idea of why this #A4Challenge has upset me so much, I am going to tell you what it is. I also just found out that this isn’t a new ‘challenge’ and that it has been around since the beginning of this year, however, I only heard about it recently.

#A4Challenge – Setting Unrealistic Beauty Standards

There has been some crazy, and I mean crazy weight-based and beauty-based challenges around over the last few years, some of which have been seen as incredibly detrimental to our mental health and as influencing young women and children in negative ways. But that doesn’t seem to stop these unrealistic ‘challenges’ from going viral or stop thousands of women from taking part in them. Seriously ladies, it needs to stop.

So, what have a few of these ‘challenges’ consisted of? To name just a few…

  1. Well, there was the Kylie Jenner Challenge – where it was reported that a number of young girls had done irreversible damage to their lips by using the suction of a shot glass or the mouth of a bottle to plump their lips. What. the. fuck.
  2. The #ThighGapChallenge, which is pretty self explanatory.
  3. Then there was the #CollarboneChallenge – where women put coins in their collarbone gaps to accentuate how much they stick out.
  4. Oh, and now the #A4Challenge – where you are meant to hold up a piece of A4 paper (which is only 8 ½ by 11 inches, just to put it into perspective) in front of your body, take a selfie and upload it to social media for the world to see (and judge you).

Note: I forgot to say, that if this tiny piece of paper completely covers your waist, then congrats. Apparently. I doubt it would cover mine, although I am not. fucking. trying. it.

All of these bizarre, unrealistic and completely ridiculous – yes, I said ridiculous – challenges just shows us how completely and utterly obsessed we are with not only how we look, but how everyone else looks, too.

These ‘challenges’ set unrealistic standards for so many women (and men) – regardless of their age, giving them ideas of what they should look like. Most of the time they lead to eating disorders, depression and women hating themselves and their bodies so much that they will do just about anything to reach these impossible standards.

Argh. I just can’t.

Smearing my face with chocolate

Image credit: Claire Henderson

The Silver Lining (because we need one).

I have to say, no matter how bad some of these challenges are, there are always people out there trying to combat the completely unrealistic beauty standards that both women and men are being held to today. Thank God.

There are a number of amazing celebrities who are breaking the mould and spreading body positivity as far as they can, trying to stop the bullying and open the world’s eyes to how it is affecting those who do not ‘fit’ into these scary specifications.

What’s more, there are more and more companies – including Mattel who produces Barbie – who are expanding their range of toys to include a much more diverse selection, helping to spread body positivity from a young age, and helping to show girls and boys that everyone is different and they should be proud of their differences.

What can we do?

There is nothing more beautiful than embracing your body and who you are, no matter what size you are, how tall or short you are, how long you hair is or what colour you choose to dye it this month, or whether or not you wake up early to put a face full of make up on.

If you want to help to stop these ‘challenges’ from going viral, here’s what you can do:

  1. Avoid taking part in these challenges. Period.
  2. Love yourself and one another.
  3. Stand together and be kind to not only one another, but yourself. We do not need to bully and judge each other, seriously.

Rant over. I am not sorry that this post is really long, I am just incredibly sad that we live in a world where there will be someone judging us – no matter what we look like – around each and every corner.

We are all beautiful, that is all we need to remember. And no ‘challenge’ has the right to question or tell us what is beautiful or not, what is acceptable and what is not, and to make us feel bad about ourselves.

Be happy with who you are, as hard as it may be.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Danielle Le Chat

    You are gorgeous my dear, strong friend. I love you so much and I’m so inspired by your bravery xxx

    September 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm
    • Reply Claire Henderson

      Thank you so much D. I love you so much more! XX

      September 9, 2016 at 8:14 am
  • Reply jen

    I absolutely agree with you 1000% Let’s completely IGNORE these horrid challenges. You are beautiful – never forget that

    September 7, 2016 at 4:35 pm
  • Reply Alice Stevenson

    I ADORE THIS! YAY for body positivity! YAY for self-acceptance! YAY for respecting one another!

    September 1, 2016 at 10:43 am
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