Do you like your body? If not, discover why?
Body image is how you perceive your physical self and how you think you look. It plays a very important role in our mental and physical well-being. When we have a positive image on our bodies, we feel comfortable and satisfied with our looks. However, when we are not satisfied with the way we look, we tend to feel less worthwhile and reject ourselves. As a result of this body dissatisfaction, many people engage in unhealthy weight loss programs or cosmetic surgery. In this article, I’m going to shed light on the most important factors which affect our body image:
1. Media: Nobody can deny that media has a great impact on our lives in general, and on the way we see ourselves in particular. Media influences our body image by presenting some models, actors and actresses who have ideal body shapes, which are almost unattainable. Our constant exposure to media through television, magazines, and internet websites ...etc tends to fix these images in our minds. For men, they internalize the belief that being tall, lean and muscular is the ideal; for women, they get convinced that being slender and attractive is the standard. Teenagers are the category which gets affected most by the images depicted in media as they are still vulnerable and have not yet developed critical thinking. As a result, many people take action to attain the ideal body shape presented through media; they either resort to detrimental weight programs or cosmetic surgery. Sometimes body dissatisfaction may lead to a mental disorder as the person becomes obsessed and preoccupied with changing the way he or she looks.
2. Culture: whether we are aware of it or not, culture influences the way we see our bodies. The ideal body image in a specific culture can be totally different from that of another culture. For example, in Australia, the perfect woman shape is the slim and attractive. There is a myth which reinforces this belief. The myth says that thinness brings success, happiness and acceptance. In Burma, long-necked women are considered to be symbols of beauty and they attract perfect husbands. In Mauritania, beautiful women are the ones with large size. Some parents there force their daughters to eat more in order to get overweight, hence get married soon.
This prevailing image of the perfect body image in a given culture affects to a great extent the way people look at their bodies.
3. Other people: In our everyday life, we tend to hear comments about how we look. They may come from parents, relatives or friends. Of course, these messages don’t reflect our realities as they can be negative or positive. This depends on the way these people relate to us and the way they perceive themselves. Some messages we may get from other people:
“You look so fat. You should eat less “
“You look so thin. You should eat more”
“You look very nice in that dress”
“That haircut really suits you”
“You look so old “
Though these comments aren’t always true, they may have a tremendous effect on our body image and sometimes even the smallest comment may cause emotional hurts when you are already dissatisfied with your physical appearance.
4. Peer competence: peers play a significant role in the development of body image, especially during adolescence. Friends have what we can call a “culture of appearance”. They agree among them on certain criteria of the ideal perfect image. According to these criteria, they classify the ones who have perfect bodies and the ones who don’t. Therefore, they may either praise or tease each other about the way they look. These comments have a great impact on the way adolescents perceive their physical appearances. To be accepted by each other, they start competing with one another by resorting to unhealthy programs to either gain or lose weight.
At the end, I would like to stress again the importance of body image in our lives. Having a positive image means living a happy and fulfilling life; however, having a poor body image affects the person’s self-esteem. This can lead to a life full of misery and dissatisfaction and can interfere with one’s own personal life. That’s why, we have to be aware of the images media and societies are trying to fix in our minds on a daily basis. In addition, we have to be immune to all those comments and remarks other people make and accept our bodies as they are. It’s good to take care of our appearances by dressing well, eating well and exercising regularly, but we should avoid anything that can do harm to our bodies.