Here is the full transcript of English model Iskra Lawrence’s TEDx Talk: Ending The Pursuit of Perfection at TEDxUniversityofNevada Conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Ending the pursuit of perfection by Iskra Lawrence at TEDxUniversityofNevada
Kind of funny, because my speech actually starts with: we have a problem; we mean it did, because I just had hiccups and they were quite violent. So luckily we’re all good now. So I can start.
We do have a problem, though, and that is the most important relationship we have in our lives is the one we have with ourselves, and we’re not taught about it. I want to challenge you to think about, if we were taught how to look after ourselves using self-care, could we help enrich our lives, make us happier, combat our insecurities and enable us to reach our full potential. For example, have you ever blamed your body? “Oh my God! That dress is so cute; I can’t wear it and I’d have roles”. “I know why he didn’t call me back, because I put on 10 pounds last week; damn those burritos!”
And the thing is body image is often associated with teenage girls. But in fact, men and boys are affected too. Eating disorders and mental health can affect anyone at any age, at any time. And that’s why this is so important to me and why we’re here today connecting with you all.
So many guys now are going to the gym and they’re even abusing steroids, because maybe their selfies would get more likes if they had a 6-pack of abs, not beer. I know that when I was younger I would look in that mirror every single day and hate what I saw: Why don’t I have a thigh gap? Why does it like this if I ate the other one? More pimples; are you kidding me? I hate myself. And that’s so sad because I can’t get those years back of self-loathing, calorie obsession and jealousy.
So I decided to use those experiences that I’ve had to gain a better understanding of the relationship I have with my body and myself. And by practicing self-care I was able to change my life. And I hope today I can encourage you all, if you haven’t already started to start that journey of self-love.
It’s crazy these days. We have so many precious and now we have social media. With the rise of social media we literally have a weapon of mass destruction to our self-esteem, 24×7. You guys who consume social media, have you ever lost one, two, maybe even three hours of your life deep in someone’s profile? Yeah, thinking ‘Oh, wow! Look, they’re so in love.’ ‘Oh, they’re going to all these amazing holidays.’ ‘They have the dream job’, ‘they have this perfect life’; ‘why isn’t my life like that?’ The scary thing is that’s not real.
Social media is a curated, filtered, often airbrushed and sometimes even lifestyle illusion. That’s why we need to be taught about it. That is why we need to be taught how to cope with these pressures in schools, and it’s become my mission to teach self-care and get it into the education system, because we need to be taught how to look after ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally.
I’m very grateful I have over 3 million followers online and I commit to being authentic, honest with them and not retouching my pictures that I own, because I have to forgive myself. I’ve been in the industry for 13 years and I would get images back of myself that my family couldn’t even recognize me when they flipped through the magazine, unless you couldn’t find me and I would look at these pictures and think wow, had a half my arms go, my legs are so much skinnier, I’ve got zero flaws; is that how I meant to look? I meant to be that perfected image. Wow, well, I can’t even look like that and that’s me. That’s wrong.
So why is it that we feel these insecurities in the first place? Because from a very young age, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our success and our happiness is highly dependent on our attractiveness. Think about all the princes and princesses you saw: slim, toned, tall, proportional features, the magazines and celebrating severe weight loss is actually unhealthy or those who have been nicked and tucked to look 20 years younger, because if we are insecure we are a motivated consumer. We can be sold an anti-wrinkle cream by a 13 year old, a push-up bra that looks absolutely ridiculous because I’ve been on set years ago where they were actually wearing a bra under the bra to give unattainable cleavage. Yeah, that happens, it’s sort of butt pads. Butt pads are in all those jeans efforts you see, just saying.
And I recently was trained by the National Eating Disorders Association of the US who I’m an ambassador for in something called the Body Project. It’s the first scientifically proven course to help prevent eating disorders in young people and it’s just four one-hour sessions, the impact on these people’s was outstanding and it confirmed to me that we need to be talking about this. So I thought I’d share with you some of that today.
The main concept we teach is the beauty ideal myth. We get all the kids to have magazines and they pick out the perfect body and we then break it down for them. OK, so what’s the perfect body then? Well, it’s tall, it’s big boobs, small ways or it’s ridiculous abs, it’s a tan, it’s straight hair, it’s no flaws; is that real? No. Is that achievable? No. So what are the sacrifices and cost for you to try and attain this? It’s so detrimental to your mental and physical health. And guess what, who wins from this battle? The brands, the magazines, the pharmaceutical industry. And who loses? We lose.
So we need to embrace our bodies for more than that. We need to stop trying to attain perfection because we’re good enough already. And if we could start redefining the beauty ideal, imagine celebrating someone’s achievements, their accomplishments, their personality, their morals and their values, to me that’s beautiful.
I recently was challenged to get three women who would refuse to ever be in a bikini to go in a bikini live on national TV in front of 3 million people and on the streets of London in front of crowds. And these were women who are generally taught to kind of school kids, they were older, there was actually a lady in her seventies who had recently lost her partner and had excess skin. There was another lady who is a mother and she had an eating disorder and really struggled with body image her whole life. And the other woman had been horrifically body shamed by an ex-partner. So we go backstage and I’m like, Okay, I hope I can do this. And they call me and they’re like, it’s for you, you need to get in the changing room right now, they’re all breaking down.
Well, no wonder the three women in a room with one mirror and five bikinis and said you must choose one of these and you’re going to go out there and it’s like, come on that’s a lot of pressure. And so I went in there and I taught them one of my biggest areas of self-care, which I call my mirror challenge. So initially they’re standing in that mirror, the first thing they do and I’m sure many of you do as well, it’s see your insecurities. We need to change that discussion.
So I get them in front of a mirror in their bikinis and I tell them: pick out five things that you love about yourself. I gave them a few examples and they started: well, I’m the life of the party. I’m an amazing friend; I’m creative; I’m independent, I’m hardworking, I am courageous and then they start thinking: oh you know, I’m pretty cool. They started feeling proud of themselves.