So many of us feel so badly about ourselves. Women, and increasingly men as well, are bombarded with images of perfect bodies that simply do not exist in reality. It can feel like we will never be good enough, thin enough, pretty enough or perfect enough. Unfortunately there isn’t really much we can do to escape these images completely in the short term. However, we can change how we react to these messages and how we use our purchasing power to support companies that promote positive body image.
Knowledge is power and there are some wonderful resources online to help us educate ourselves. About-Face is one of my favorite websites. The mission of this site is to equip women and girls with tools to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect self-esteem and body image. I regularly check out the blog and have delved deeply into their fantastic Facts page.
About-Face did comprehensive research and brought together these studies and reports from many leaders in the fields of eating disorders, body image, and communications/media. In presenting these facts, we hope to help you become aware of the growing problem of body image dissatisfaction, as well as the extent to which women’s body image and the development of eating disorders in women are influenced by culture and media.
These facts are well-referenced with links to the studies and articles. For example, here are some facts from the MEDIA page:
Media-portrayed images, especially those presented in the context of advertisements for dieting and weight-altering products, promote the idea that body shape and size are flexible, and that achieving the thin ideal is relatively easy. [Brownell, 1991]
- The average size of the idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has become progressively thinner and has stabilized at 13-19% below healthy weight. [Garner et al., 1980]
- Appearance anxiety increased after viewing advertisements featuring idealized images. Participants’ body shame increased after exposure to idealized images, irrespective of advertisement type. [Monro and Huon, 2005]
- When girls begin to view fashion models and celebrities as icons, it is called media internalization. This internalization refers to the extent to which an individual invests in societal ideals of size and appearance (thin ideal for girls and muscular for boys) to the point that they become rigid guiding principles. [Thompson et al., 2004]
- Media internalization is a risk factor for body dissatisfaction, dieting, negative affect, binge eating, and increases in eating-disorder symptoms. [Vandereycken, 2006]
We don’t have to fall for this. We are better than it! We deserve more than being manipulated this way.
Deciding to be kind to yourself is a choice. It won’t just happen unless you make it happen. Taking care of yourself is just as important as eating well and moving your body. Look into the mirror and compliment yourself with no qualification. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself. Celebrate every victory and learn from mistakes then move on. If we aren’t careful, we can spend far too much time beating ourselves up and nowhere near enough time enjoying life.