BODY IMAGE: ARE WE RAISING A GENERATION OF INSECURE PEOPLE?
I was sent a picture by my husband recently. While we always share photos and links with eachother, this particular picture was a bit disturbing. It was a side-by-side picture of an influential young lady in her bikini. The picture on the left was a photoshopped picture which looked like the well worshipped body type that the media portrays as perfect. The so-called “instagram baddie”, slim-thick body type as it is called on social media. And on the right side was the girl in real life; completely different from the person she portrays herself to be online. She was not so perfect as the picture showed, no perfect curves as portayed and was overweight.
My first thought was, “this girl probably has lots of young girls who look up to her and wish to have the body she has”. Unknown to them that the person they see in photos is a facade. My next thought was, this can not be easy for her; seeing her natural body being altered to media’s standard of perfection. And later staring in the mirror and realizing that she is only lying to herself. There is no questioning the effect that this can have on her body image and self-esteem.
What is Body Image?
Body Image is a subjective concept that encompasses a persons thoughts, feelings and perceptions about his or her body. In simple terms, body image is the mental picture that we have of our body, and the way we feel when we look in a mirror. Body image is not a true reflection of our biology. It is subjective to the individual and is simply how we experience our body and how the body is evaluated by oneself.
There are several factors that may influence our body image. These include:
personal factors (personality, self-esteem), interpersonal factors (family, peers and media messages), biological factors (genetic traits, increased BMI, a series of pathologies), and cultural factors (social values and norms).
Positive Body Image VS Negative Body Image
A person with a positive body image has a clear and true perception of their appearance. They are fully aware of the way their body looks and they accept and feel good about it. Regardless of whether their look is what media, family or friends deem as desirable, they realize that their ourward appearance is not all there is to them. They are proud and confident in themselves. Usually, people with a good body image place less importance on their looks and more importance on who they are as a person.
A person with a negative body image feels like their body does not measure up to society’s standard of beauty. They are more likely to compare themselves to others, and feel inadequate. They look in a mirror and have an unrealistic view of themselves.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
A disorder known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is linked to a negative body image. A person with BDD looks into a mirror and sees a completely different image from what everyone else does. They may ask to get cosmetic surgery done to a part of their body that looks perfectly normal to everyone else. This is not to say that everyone that alters a part of their body has BDD. The big difference is we all can see an imperfection and live with it. And perhaps after long consideration, decide to alter it for ourselves. There is no psychological stress associated with this flaw. However, for someone with BDD, the flaw is significant and prominent, often causing severe emotional distress and difficulties in daily functioning.
Why is a Positive Body Image important?
In a world that promotes perfection and in this world of social media, it is necessary to encourage young girls and boys to love and accept themselves. It is important to be aware that as we grow older, our bodies may change due to hormones. We should also keep in mind that many pictures seen on advertisements both online and offline have been heavily photoshopped. Hence, trying to achieve such a body will only be futile; further leading to more self-hate and castigation.
The fashion industry sets an unhealthy example by employing underweight models and influencers to display their products. Thankfully, that is starting to change. Their influence can affect both the mental and physical wellbeing of a susceptible individual. Anorexia and other eating disorders are as a result of such negative views on our body. We should be mindful of the people we follow on social media. Spend more time on people who are not so preoccupied with their bodies and the illusion of perfection.
We develop scars from beautiful events like child birth. Some may develop a scar from an accident or a surgery. We should be able to celebrate the gift of life after escaping an accident. Our scars should remind us of our strength. The media should not shame us into thinking we are ugly and imperfect.
Never compare yourself to others. If you are unhappy with something about yourself, speak to someone about it. See to it that you are not beating yourself over something insignificant.
Be mindful of the people you hang around and people you follow on social media. If they make you feel bad about yourself and your life, then perhaps you should not surround yourself with such negativity.
It is no crime to change a part of yourself which you are unhappy with, and which is within your power to change. If you feel like you want to add or reduce a bit of weight, make sensible and intentional decisions. Make the change because you want to. And not because you are trying to reach a certain standard set by media.
A healthy body is a happy body. Eat a balanced diet and make time for some physical activity everyday; be it a short 30 minutes walk or any moderately vigorous activity. Be kind to your body and treat it well.
Steps to building a Positive body image (Next blog post)