By nature, we idealize. This pretty much applies to every aspect of our lives: looks, morals, expectations, religion, politics, health, the future, etc. It’s also part of human nature and human psychology to idolize–we need a leader and we always look to the individual who holds the qualities of a legitimate leader.
Many of the people I follow on social media are people I idolize, generally because they send out really positive, genuine vibes. Photos I like are those that I idealize–recipes, people, food photography, travel,quote inspiration, anything that I want in my life but I don’t necessarily have. This led me to something: a group of YouTubers that I’m subscribed to follow this summer cutting trend. Most of these people do it for a bikini competition, but some do it just for the sake of cutting and getting to a certain “leanness”, if that makes any sense. Totally understandable, because it’s bikini season soon, after all.
Now I just want to say that I do not hate these YouTubers, I am not accusing them, I am not angry with them, I am not trying to influence anybody else to agree with me, and I am not going to name any specifics for this situation. In fact, these YouTubers are people I have actually met in real life at big events and they are some of the most genuine, sweetest and energetic human beings I have ever come across. I still look up to them and will support them in every one of their endeavors. However, what they were documenting on their channels actually influenced me in a dangerous way. It can happen to anybody if you allow yourself to wrap your ideals all around your idols. To be honest, I’m disappointed in myself that I let this happen to me, because I know that deep down, I can do better. On the other hand, I’m not sure if the way that I was influenced partially stemmed from a part of myself and not entirely from my idols. It’s possible, but here’s what happened:
Every night, every morning, basically every time I started a workout, I would go onto my “Subscriptions” tab in YouTube and add every single video that popped up in my feed on my Watch Later playlist. During every workout I’d just let that list play until I was done and delete every completed video. Remember those YouTubers who were going on the cut? Well I watched their cutting series too. All I would hear as I’d exercise was anything about saving/cutting calories, getting leaner, achieving a new low weigh-in, changing macros, and looking better than ever. Normally I don’t compare my lives to others’. I go to school, I have my own ambitions and I have my own occupations and problems. Everybody does. But because I particularly really liked these people and I knew they were genuine, that was exactly what I did. I thought, if they were going on a cut for a special event and even if they weren’t, they were doing something that made them look leaner and feel better, I want to do that too.
As I looked at photos of myself in my chosen prom dress, I was enthralled by how beautiful the dress was, but I was also somewhat disgusted with how I looked in it. I didn’t think I was obese or anything, but I thought: “Eew, look at my chest and armpit fat. I seriously have to tighten my waist much more. I can imagine what people would think of my man-looking shoulders.” That was when I created the “Operation Cut for Prom” plan. I didn’t actually call it that, but I did want to start a mini cutting series where I’d aim to improve my target areas and slim down overall in order to look better for my prom coming up in May.
By the time I loosely mentioned my cut in front of my family–parents, to be exact, I did not anticipate that I would get such a reaction. They were furious. To them, cutting was a terrible idea, I had no more weight to lose, I was going to look ill, and I would take it too far. It made me really sad that they didn’t support me; I tried to deny that I would be very careful with this and that I would be responsible as much as I could, but in the back of my mind, I knew that they were right. I took this problem to a few of my close friends to get their opinion. They sided with my parents as well.
To be honest, I was so angry at first. I was upset because I thought I was being treated unfairly. People were telling me that I had to miss out on something that seemed really exciting. It was almost like I was in eighth grade again and I had to sit out on the playing field and watch the rest of the kids playing soccer, laughing themselves silly. I felt so left out in the cutting series trend. I thought, why could everybody else suddenly get shredded and slim for the summer while I was stuck here in potato-belly land?
I’m still pretty torn about whether or not I want to change my diet and fitness regimen for prom specifically. After all, it is only one night, and I don’t want to look back and dread what I had to do to look a certain way. But at the same time, I don’t want to come to the dance looking and feeling as unconfident as I did. For now, I’m just doing the best that I can–maybe a little bit cleaner than normal but not much–but there’s no bikini competition meal prep or crazy workout series. I want to start something because I know that I will grow as a person afterwards and feel better about myself, even if I have to work really hard, but I also want to leave knowing that I can sustain at least part of it for the rest of my life.
What was harmful for me about these ideals and idols was that I fell in the mental trap of having to conform to whatever they were doing, even though our goals aren’t the same. I allowed myself to compare my own image and my own overall message to someone else’s, even though our lifestyles and our stories are totally different. We can idealize and idolize as much as we want to, so as long as we don’t lose sight of ourselves. I can’t cut just because someone else is, nor can I bulk the same way someone else is–I only can if I personally make the decision to, all solely based on my opinions and my goals! I guess I just have to remember that others like me for my individuality, not that I look like or present myself like someone else.