Sociologists believe that we are bombarded with over 400 different types of advertising messages on a daily basis. We see images that we see in the media almost daily of what the “perfect” female or male body should look like. Teenagers are especially assaulted by images on television, their magazines or on the Internet with the images of this perfect body. And, because our body image is often based on what others look like or what we perceive others look like and how that relates to our own goals and aspirations for our bodies, these images will be incorporated into our self perception.
But what really is body image? Our body image is just what it sounds like, an image of what we think our bodies look like in our minds eye. It is the way we think about our own body and how we think that others see us. This awareness and perception is often based on appearance and function. People who have a positive body image will usually see themselves as attractive to others while those who have a poor body image will see themselves as unattractive and sometimes even repulsive.
Body image is not a concept that is static. In other words it is changing and not based on facts but rather influenced by our self-esteem and psychological nature. Our body image is sensitive to our emotions, our moods and our water weight retention. We learn how to perceive our body image to the interaction we have with our own families and friends but it is only a reinforcement of what is learned from the culture.
Body image is not based on the opinions of others. Some people who have a great body image may be rated as unattractive by others while those who have a poor body image may be rated as very attractive by others.
In today’s media driven culture women are starving themselves and their children, binge eating or binging and purging in order to meet this perfect ideal. Children are watching their parents closely to learn what body image is and how to integrate it into their own lives. When children are learning from parents whose body image is closely tied to what they see as perfection it results in raising a generation of children who aspire to perfection to the point that they become anorexic, starve themselves, constantly diet and never eat a nutritious well-balanced meal.
Especially in the teen years, younger individual’s self-esteem is closely related to their body image and self perception. Self-esteem is how much value a person places upon themselves, their pride and how worthwhile they feel. Body image is often tied to self-esteem in young teenage women.
Individuals who desire to change their body image and self-perceptions do not need to change the way they look, feel, act or live. Instead they must change the way they think about themselves and how attractive they believe themselves to be. Each of us are individuals. We cannot duplicate the current top model and they cannot duplicate us. The first step for individuals who want to change their body image is to be sure that the weight is within healthy limits by checking with their primary care physician or trusted friend. The final step is to learn to appreciate the diversity that we bring to the human race with our own individual interpretation of our bodies. For instance, we cannot change the size of our feet or our shoe size but if we feel our legs are too flabby we can go to the gym for a few hours a week.
The real goal in altering your body image must always be health. Whether an individual is trying to attempt to achieve a healthy weight or a healthy toned body, the goal must be to achieve good health. When you eventually take your eyes off of the half starved, liposuction, surgically enhanced television stars you’ll realize that your body is an individual and is beautiful. When you hear yourself saying negative things to yourself – STOP! You can be your own worst enemy or your own biggest fan. Choose to be your biggest fan.