Give someone a compliment about how they look and listen to how they respond. Do they simply say, ‘thank you’ or make excuses for how they could look better? These are some of the responses we’ve heard:
“I’ve got a tummy I need to lose,”
“I wish I didn’t have these dimples in my thighs,”
“I need to get rid of the extra skin on my arms to reduce the giggle!”
“My hair needs coloring.”
“I wish I had curly (or straight) hair.”
Some people are uncomfortable receiving compliments so some of the above responses could just be a reaction to that discomfort. Most likely, however, their response reflects what they believe an ideal body or beauty should look like and their feeling that they fall short of that ideal.
The media, television, and the fashion industry have been blamed for creating an ideal body image that not many of us can meet. Logically, we all know that the pictures of models in magazines have been touched up, and that models follow a very strict diet before striding down the runway! Practically, we just can’t let go of that perfect image. Secretly, we all want that six pack (or eight pack) so many fitness magazines show on their front covers!
Body Image and Adolescents
Adolescents and young adults are most susceptible to poor body image as their bodies are going through so many changes as part of their growth and they may not have the knowledge and skill to manage healthy eating and fitness habits. Peer pressure and comments from adults can also affect an adolescent’s view of their body. Although the comment may not be directed at them, comments about your own body can influence them. For example, Lia caught her son complaining about how he had gained belly flab! It made her stop to think about how often she complains about her belly.
Eating disorders can result from poor body image which is closely related to poor self-esteem and mental health issues. Statistics from various surveys on teens’ perceptions of body image show that a large proportion of them believe they are overweight even when considered at a healthy weight. This is especially true for girls. Boys tend to view themselves as not being muscular enough or being too thin. Take a look at these statistics from the Stage of Life student survey:
- 20% of teens are either “rarely” or “never” happy with their body image
- Over half of all teens (52%) feel that the media pressures them to change their body image
- 73% of teens feel their appearance affects their body image
- 65% of teens are afraid of gaining weight
- 44% of teens skip meals as a tactic to losing or controlling weight
- 31% of teens have been on a diet in the last six months
- 31% of teens have at least one body part on which they would like to get surgery
- 56% of teens feel that the media’s advertisements are the main cause of low self-esteem
Dealing with Poor Body Image
Some of us never grow out of that poor body image and it continues to affect our self esteem. While, for those who take control, the healthy way, learn to love their bodies and are proud of their strength, curves, accomplishments, and so forth. Below is a video of a woman who videotaped herself going to the gym for 100 days and the lessons learned along the way. It is a great inspiration:
Dove, UNILEVER, initiated a campaign in 2004 to address the issue of body image and in particular to show how women of different sizes, shapes, ages, and color are all beautiful. We are sure you have seen their commercials. The following is an advertisement they published in April of 2013. Again, inspirational and thought provoking:
Our Tips to Improve Body Image
The issue of body image is one that is dear to our hearts. Growing up we both struggled with diets, sedentary lifestyles, bad hair days, comments from peers and comparisons to beautiful friends and family members. Some days when we’re going through our menopausal moments, we might say we’re still experiencing some of these feelings! However, now as 50 somethings we’ve learned that stewing about it only causes more concern and unnecessary fixation. Over the years our ways for dealing with poor body image have included:
- Learning about health, nutrition and fitness so we make the right choices;
- Eating well and exercising regularly to get our positive endorphins going;
- Finding a sport or activity that makes us feel accomplished;
- Going out without make up or hair done up and finding out that nobody notices;
- Focusing on what we like about our bodies and ourselves – for every 1 thing we say we don’t like, we must come up with 2 things we do like;
- Fixing the things we could fix that were not extreme (e.g. wearing braces for teeth, hair removal, proper skin care)
- Wearing clothing that enhances our assets – you don’t need to wear a bikini to look great at the beach!;
- Learning to say ‘thank you’ when given a compliment;
- Supporting other women who are struggling with poor body image by honestly telling them what makes them look great;
- Sharing or displaying pictures of ourselves that we like – we all have bad picture days so just get rid of those.
Please share your tips with us in the comments section. What has worked for you? Tell us how you have created a healthy body image. How have you helped your kids feel good about their bodies and themselves?
We can all learn from each other’s experiences.
- Body Image and Adolescents – Croll