“Normal people don’t look like that”
“It’s not real life.”
“They’re not real people.”
These are just some of the things I’ve read in the past couple of hours about the reality TV show, Love Island.
This season’s Love Island debut episode had over 3.7 million viewers, which is a 10% increase from last year, and I was one of them this year. In the past I’d never really watched it, it had never really been my thing. But this season I decided to give it a watch, just to see what the fuss was all about.
Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t have much confidence in myself. I’ve never thought of myself as being an attractive person, I have a lot of anxieties about the way I look and, being naturally thin, I have a lot of insecurities about my body.
When I watched each of the girls and guys come in to the villa, I did think about how pretty they all looked, how good they looked in bikinis, how some of the guys had more abs than I even thought possible, and that they’re all what we would see as being “typically attractive” people.
My partner also watched it with me last night and, for a very brief moment, I thought “this is not a good idea, he’s going to look at these girls and be drooling over them”. But then, I quickly came back to reality and told myself that, that’s not necessarily the case. Just because they are seen as being typically attractive, that doesn’t mean everyone is automatically attracted to them. I’m not particularly attracted to any of the men on there, so why do I assume my partner will be attracted to the girls?!
Although I am someone who is already self-conscious about myself and my body image, watching a show like this does not make me feel worse. It might make me consider actually getting off my arse and using my gym membership, but that’s about it and, let’s be honest, if it makes some of us want to be healthier and do more exercise I don’t really see how that could be a bad thing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that there is some concern from things like The Mental Health Foundation, for example, about the effect that watching this kind of thing may have on younger people in particular. However, what I don’t understand, or agree with, is this constant need to point out that these people are not “real” or “normal”. Dr Kousoulis from The Mental Health Foundation actually described them as being “largely unrealistic”, and he has said that the show must also take into consideration the damage being done to the viewers.
“Love Island doesn’t have a single male contestant who looks like a normal bloke.” – Tom Green, KISS FM radio presenter.
First of all, WTF is a “normal” bloke?
Second of all, what is not “real” about them? What exactly makes them abnormal?
Because they do more to look after their bodies?
Because they are well groomed?
Because they go to the gym and have muscles?
Because they were born that way?
Because, let’s face it, they were. Some of them were just born like that. And, that apparently makes them fake or abnormal. WTF? Why is that OK?!
I understand that the show typically casts people who are all seen as being what society deem to be attractive people. But, look at things like, our Instagram feeds…
We follow 100s of “attractive” people – influencers, celebrities, etc – because that’s what we want to see. We follow fitness accounts run by health-nuts, because we want to take inspiration from them. We follow accounts that post perfectly taken, beautiful, photos daily. We follow pretty things, because that’s what we are attracted to, that’s what we want to see. Why is it acceptable in your Instagram feed, and not on your television? Why do we not give Instagram s**t for being more responsible about mental health?
As I said above, I’m a naturally thin person. I have always been seen as “skinny”, and my entire adult life so far I have seen or heard things like “you’re not a real woman if you don’t have curves”, “skinny women are not real women”. People don’t consider that this is upsetting to me because I’m thin, I should be happy to look the way that I do, and I should feel grateful. But I can tell you now, that when you’re repeatedly being told – either directly or indirectly – that you are not “real” because of the way you look, it takes its toll and it hurts.
Why do we need to put others’ down, by essentially telling them they are not normal and are unrealistic because of the way they look, to make others’ feel better?!
It is not OK.
“According to a survey that was carried out by YouGov, 1 in 4 people between the ages of 18 and 24 say that watching reality TV makes them feel worried about their bodies.” – The Independent
We are all responsible for our own mental health. It’s not a blame game; it’s not your own fault and it’s no one else’s fault either. Dr Kousoulis has said that the show must take into consideration the potential damage being done to viewers. But, ultimately, we are responsible for taking care of our own mental health and ensuring our wellbeing. If a TV show is causing you that much anxiety, is making you feel self-conscious about your own body image – especially to the point of self-harming and suicidal thoughts – stop watching it.
“Love Island has issued mental health aftercare guidelines for contestants, but they must also take into consideration the potential damage being done to viewers.” – Dr Kousoulis, the director of England and Wales at the Mental Health Foundation.
I am all for promoting better mental health. This is what this blog is all about, I wanted to help others’ open up about their mental health, and provide help, support, and advice where I can. However, I can’t sit and watch as people put down one “group” of people, to make another feel better – that’s not promoting better mental health, that’s just being hypocritical, and quite selfish. It isn’t the shows responsibility to take care of your mental health.
There are people everywhere that you may consider to be attractive; especially as an insecure person anyway, you think that everyone looks better than you do. A lot of people are starting to become more well-groomed and are taking more care of their appearance. Some people pay for a makeup artist and a hair stylist to look perfect, just for having a few drinks out with friends now – Are we going to start banning attractive people from going into bars and restaurants now as well, just in case other people feel anxious about their own body image.
It’s not about other people, it’s about working on changing our mindset, learning to love ourselves and to stop comparing ourselves to others. If you change the concept of Love Island, or take it away completely, people are not going to stop feeling self-conscious or anxious about their own body image. That’s not how it works.
We cannot keep blaming other people, companies, or organisations, for people’s mental health. We need to start encouraging people to work on themselves, to focus on their own mindset, and to get the help they need, rather than comparing themselves to other people.
I think that there also needs to be some responsibility on parents, to help to educate their children on body image; helping them to appreciate and love themselves, and to not compare themselves to others.
Let’s start working on ourselves, appreciating what we have got, and not what we haven’t. Let’s start building each other up, not blaming others, and not putting others’ down to make ourselves feel better.