How Do Negative Body Images in Media Impact Women? Physical and Mental Effects

www.dailyspark.com/blog_photos/205822249.jpg
www.dailyspark.com/blog_photos/205822249.jpg

What Do You See When You Look at Me?

Has this question become too important? Do women now care more about what we look like than who we really are? It is evident that outer appearance has taken up a greater space in the human psyche than ever before. This is evident in the amount of attention given to the subject in the media, conversations, and at the market. Are we insidiously buying into the idea that because we are less than perfect we are less valuable? Some people feel that it is a valid question that deserves our attention. April D. Fallon, Ph.D. said, "The way we view our bodies is a reflection of our self-esteem." If that is true, and evidence suggests that it often is, we should at least be concerned. Our viewpoint on this issue can affect our physical and mental health.

In particular, females, more so than males, tend to be less satisfied with their bodies, especially regarding weight. In studies Dr. Fallon did she found that women think they are heavier than others see them, but men have a more accurate picture of their bodies and shapes. In fact, she went on to relate that women's perception of what men consider an ideal female figure is much thinner than males actually desire. So what accounts for the difference?  What makes women, in general, feel that only thinness is socially acceptable or that men prefer women that are thinner? Furthermore, what makes women feel more critical of their bodies than men?  Where were these ideas generated? How is body image being distorted even now?

http://mustangdaily.net/media/2009/10/barbie.jpg
http://mustangdaily.net/media/2009/10/barbie.jpg

The Root of Negative Body Image

In many places the world over, women and girls look to TV, movies, and magazines for the gauge of what they should look like or what is ideal in physical features. In this way, society has put way too much emphasis on physical appearance. That is a real issue causing pressure for women who feel like these media images alienate them from others. That is not the only factor. These distortions regarding body image may have begun long before that. For some women, it began in elementary school where girls may have been teased over what are merely physical differences, like being very tall, very short, being slow to develop or quick to develop, the texture or color of hair, or the size of her lips. This may sound silly now, if you have developed a healthy measure of self-worth. Yet, many women still struggle with having a negative body image. For them, it can be so bad it can actually keep them from reaching their full potential in life. They are not able to say: "So what! I may not look like the woman on the cover of a magazine, but I am beautiful from the inside out! If you don't believe it, just look beyond what you can see and get to know all that is me!"

 

www.abc.net.au/reslib/200707/r161773_593574.jpg
www.abc.net.au/reslib/200707/r161773_593574.jpg
http://www.purdue.edu/swo/bbkits/LoveYourBody.jpg
http://www.purdue.edu/swo/bbkits/LoveYourBody.jpg

The Strongest Reasons for Changing Attitudes of Negative Body Image

The impact of negative body image is huge! Having these distorted perceptions of self stemming from the ideas like "I am ugly" or "I look awful" can cause increased feelings of loneliness and even heighten fear of intimacy. Obviously, that is not good for self or relationships with others. Science Daily of June 6, 2006 noted that "adolescents with negative body image concerns are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal than those without intense dissatisfaction over their appearance, even when compared to adolescents with other psychiatric illnesses, according to a new study by researchers at Bradley Hospital, Butler Hospital and Brown Medical School." That shows how deep the issue of negative body image really is and how it can affect mental and emotional health. On the physical side of the matter, there are girls who feel such pressure that they engage in starving themselves (anorexia nervosa) or bingeing and purging (bulimia) to obtain some real or imagined ideal look.  Eating disorders are associated problems that are so prevalent that there are hotlines like the one found at edreferrals.com  set up to help out with interventions. This makes it evident that a change in mindset about body image is needed.

wsr.byu.edu/images/stories/wsr/images/mirror2.jpg
wsr.byu.edu/images/stories/wsr/images/mirror2.jpg

How Do Women Move Past Negative Body Image?

It is reassuring to note that most women do get a grip as they get a little older because they come to realize that these perceived flaws do not define them as a person, despite any harsh criticism they've heard otherwise. Plus, most women come to recognize that these ideas have a much less significant role in achieving their goals in life than they ever imagined while in college, high school, and even less so elementary school! What if you are one of those many women who have not been able to define yourself outside of physical negative body image? Here are some practical things you can do:

·         Realize that negative body image is a problem. It is not serving your best interest. It could be holding you back from reaching your full potential. You do not have to conform to some media-produced image to reach your full potential. You are uniquely you.

·         Do improve what you reasonably can. That is not a contradiction of all that has been said. Yet, sometimes there are things we can improve that will contribute to better physical and mental health, such as eating healthy, avoiding obesity with all its associated ills, exercising, and maintaining good hygiene and posture. All of these contribute to a sense of well being and help reduce negative body image issues. Some may choose to go as far as cosmetic surgery, which is becoming ever more popular. If you have a physical feature that is causing you physical or emotional distress, such as breasts that are so heavy they are causing grooves in your shoulders and daily accompanying pain, it may be worth looking into. That is a personal decision. On the other end of the spectrum, if you feel that surgery is the only answer for every so-called flaw and you become a frequent flyer under the knife, this may indicate an even bigger problem associated with negative body image.  

·         Try to Be Positive. Say it with me. "My body parts are just the right size for me, and I am satisfied with them." Dr. Mary Froning has taught women to say phrases like this for 21 days to affirm their contentment with their bodies.  No matter how women get there, we all need to arrive at a place where we can have a measure of satisfaction within our own skin!

·         Accentuate the Positive. No you cannot necessarily eliminate all that you may see as negative, but almost everyone has something about themselves they feel good about. Is it your hands, feet, lips, hair, eyes, or legs, which? Even if neither, there are more important things to look for. Are you a good listener? Do you have a good sense of humor? Are you compassionate? Are you creative? Then draw attention to these things about yourself, and that will draw others attention to these qualities you have on the inside. Remember, these are the things about you that will last long after physical features may fade away.

·         Do Have a Sense of Humor. Don't take yourself so seriously. That does not mean to make yourself the brunt of your own jokes constantly. Some experts say this just means that if someone kids you about a physical feature, give it back in a humorous way. Even if you just laugh and let it go, that's better than letting thoughtless comments tear you down.  

·         Reset Your Priorities. What is more important anyway? Is it your looks or the person you are inside? If you can let go of the artificial notion that having physical attractiveness is the only way to be happy, you will find more contentment in relationships with family and friends.

·         Wipe the Steam from the Mirror. Now you can see clearly that it's not your nose, your ears, your hair, your hips, or your lips that will determine your future. It is your own attitude and behavior that will have a greater influence than your looks.

·         Recognize that Beauty Can Be More than Skin Deep. It comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and heights. In fact, its greatest value may not meet the eye but always touches the soul. That is why people can see the beauty beyond physical features in the women they love and admire. So women can dismiss negative body image with all its baggage and accept the value of who we really are within.      

Feel Free to Comment Here 19 comments

tayvsa 6 years ago

well written and informative


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago Author

Thanks tayvsa.


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

Women are their worse enemy on so many levels. It is sad that we judge our own selves on the outside. Very well written hub.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago Author

Thank you Sandy. Glad you stopped by and appreciated the hub.


Peachy1 6 years ago

Well it's interesting because as I've gotten older past many years of celibacy and having very large southward breast and a big flabby stomach I'm not feeling my normal prowess.Tryn to overcome not feeling attractive,but men do show interest.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago Author

Hope you will be successful in your efforts to feel better about your looks. Just remember to do what you reasonably can and that your real validation will come from within!


Gracie Sophia 6 years ago

I agree! Teens need to read this article.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 6 years ago Author

Hi Gracie,

Please feel free to share this hub with others because even though negative body image affects women of all ages, it does tend to affect teens more.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

What a great article. We women really need this hub and especially young women and teens. Body image has gotten way out of hand and our young women are going to extremes to duplicate the look of models, movie stars, etc. Yes, you are right on about beauty comeing from the inside. Thanks


zanin profile image

zanin 5 years ago from London, England

Accentuate the Positive - totally agree with this. I think we just need to find something we like about ourselves and not focus on what others think of us, or what we think they think!


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 5 years ago Author

Hi zanin. Glad to share a positive spin on how women can feel better about our bodies and really ourselves because negative body images can be self-defeating. It seems that getting this straightened out is important, especially for young women, because it can help them be happier now and help in other areas of life later. Thanks for visiting!


Flower26 profile image

Flower26 5 years ago

Iam very grateful for the article I just read. It is about time that woment have become aware that beauty comes from the inside and not the outside. If you don't like the way you look then do something about it. If you are satified with the way or who you are then don't change a thing. Stop letting the commercial aspects of life choose for you. Is just a money making business.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment Flower26. I agree that the most important aspects of beauty comes from the inside. It's convincing young women of this, I think, and helping them cope with the pressure that makes them feel inferior that will make a big difference.


dashingclaire profile image

dashingclaire 5 years ago from United States

Good hub! It's very sad that people don't understand the women seen in magazines and other media are not perfect. The great hair has extension/wig. The pimple is covered by makeup. Love yourself. If you have curves embrace them.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment dashingclaire. I like your expression to just "love yourself." The more we can share that positive message, the more we can make a difference in helping other women move past negative body image and reach their full potential.

A belated thanks to vocalcoach for your thoughtful comment as well.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Voted up. You hit all the key points very well. It is sad that we are in a society that supports "all about the image". Just look at the number of reality shows there are. It is also a shame that girls, not teens, are now telling themselves that they are too fat. It is happening at younger and younger ages. What women do for the love of men is horrible.

I have been in a relationship with someone who has finally come out with the truth of his feelings-he does not find me 'desirable'. I broke up with him at the beginning of this yr-why would I want to be with someone who cannot accept me for who I am and what I look like? I know it is HIS problem-I am overweight, but not obese and certainly not morbidly obese.

Well written article about a sensitive subject.


Cassidella profile image

Cassidella 5 years ago Author

Denise I agree with you that the problem of negative body image is reaching even younger girls than teens. Your courage to be accepted for who you are and not what you look like is also commendable. I wish you the best! Thanks for you comment.


Christina 4 years ago

I think another thing to do is to not worry about dating and getting married at a young age (high school, early 20's). From personal experience by getting bullied in school, most if not all young guys in the age group that I just listed only judge girls and woman by their looks. It's that realization that has made me very depressed and not having any hope of finding somebody, because I'm not the "smoking hot" girl that most guys at that age want.


mystery girl 4 years ago

This is one of the best articles ive read about this topic and i completely agree. Girls and women these days are so focused on looking like people they see in magazines and the truth is that those people dont have the perfect bodies, the perfect body is what you as yourself wants to look like

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    More by this Author


    Click to Rate This Article
    working