More than half of women and almost half of men report that they are dissatisfied with something about their bodies. Many studies show that the more television a person watches and the more that people identify with models, athletes or celebrities, the worse their body image becomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that by the time students begin college, they have watched more than 25,000 hours of television—that is more time than they spent in school!
Studies have repeatedly found that being exposed to images of the American ideal standard of beauty significantly decreases girls’ satisfaction with their own bodies. Females are not the only ones affected by the media’s influences. As beauty pageant contestants, Playboy centerfolds, and models in advertising have become thinner and more unrealistic, the men displayed by the media have similarly become increasingly larger and more muscular. The International Journal of Eating Disorders published an experiment that showed that after briefly viewing advertisements featuring muscular men, college males’ perception of their own bodies were more negative.
We begin to receive the message that we must strive toward an unattainable body while our minds are still young and impressionable: The body proportions of action figures, Disney characters and Barbie dolls (to name a few) are physically unattainable. And it is important to realize that the pictures we see in magazines are all altered to the point that they are also unrealistic—the models don’t even have pores, which our bodies need to survive.
In an attempt to sell more of their products, advertisers tell you that your hair is the wrong color, your skin is too oily and too dry, you have too much acne and not enough of a tan, you need to lengthen and thicken your eyelashes, your cheeks are not rosy enough, your nails are too short and brittle, your teeth are not white enough, your legs and face are not smooth enough, your stomach is too flabby, and your butt is too big. Of course, these advertisers have a solution to solve your misery—buy their product so that you can change and feel better. So it is no wonder that people feel so dissatisfied with their appearance and try to find ways such as make-up, working out, dieting and plastic surgery to help them feel better.
Many people who are dissatisfied with some aspect of their appearance will attempt to change it. This seems like the only option when you are bombarded with messages that YOU should change the way you look. Plastic surgery has become so casual that there are now numerous reality television shows about people doing it—The Swan, Nip Tuck and Extreme Makeover are just a few.
What is the result of feeling bad about the way you look and believing that you have to change your body? You might suffer from low self-esteem, low confidence, nervousness interacting with other people, you may avoid going places or doing things, suffer from anxiety or feel depressed, or develop an eating disorder. And if you are unable to change the thing you are dissatisfied with, you are likely to feel frustrated or feel like a failure. Unfortunately, many people who successfully change their appearance—they lose weight, have plastic surgery, color their hair—often find that they continue to struggle with a negative body image.
Tips to Combat Negative Body Image
- Reduce the amount of time you watch television or read magazines. Remember that advertisers want to make you think you need to buy something.
- Stop comparing yourself to the unattainable images your see. Keep in mind that those people do not look that perfect in real life.
- Think about all the positive things about you as a person that have nothing to do with your looks—what are you good at? What skills do you have?
- Remind yourself that appearance is not the most important thing in life—think of other things that are important to you.
- Keep in mind that your worth as a person has nothing to do with your looks—even if it seems like it sometimes.