Body image is such a sensitive topic but yet it’s treated so trivially in society. While we know that people have committed suicide due to poor body image we still use weight issues as our go-to-joke. It’s disheartening to think about the role that we all play in shaping the body image of the youth. We unconsciously show young people which body types are acceptable and which body types aren’t, but do we really know ourselves. Have we even gotten to a point individually or on the societal level, with all the advancements in science and technology to even know definitively which body type is best? I would say, absolutely not! What is meant by best anyway?
I read in an article on “Mirror Mirror,” an eating disorder website, that Americans watch 250 billion hours of television per year. That doesn’t even include what we see on social media, magazines, street advertising, and books. Every minute of our lives we are constantly bombarded with images of “the chosen people.” These are the people who are deemed acceptable to be photographed for an ad or casted for the love interest in a movie or sitcom. The “chosen people” are used to depict what we should all aim to look like. (http://www.mirror-mirror.org/the-media-and-body-image.htm)
According to a study conducted by Anne Becker, Western TV has a major impact on how we view our bodies. She conducted a study of teenagers in a remote area in Fiji. Until the 1990’s there was only one reported case of anorexia nervosa in the entire country. Then in 1995 their government allowed them to view Western TV shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 and the X-Files. Coincidentally, by 2007 almost 40% of the 500 teenage girls that Anne interviewed reported issues of having negative body image and had vomited or took herbs to use weight. That is after one decade of watching TV. Now think about how long we have been exposed to these images and how either conscientiously or unconsciously they have affected how we view ourselves. (https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/media’s-dangerous-influence-body-image)
While I’ve spent most of this blog discussing body image as it relates to weight, that is not the only factor that people have difficulty accepting about themselves. People experience negative body image due to their complexion, their height, their accents, and a host of other things that are seemingly marginalized in popular media and I just want it all to stop.
As a full grown adult woman, I even found myself being impacted by the images that I see, particularly on social media. I’ve questioned how women I’ve seen on social media could have such small waists but wide hips? I’ve wondered why I had to be blessed with this huge blossom when there are curvy women with small breast? I’ve even wondered how people lost weight so quickly when it is a constant struggle for me. Then one day I learned that an acquaintance of mines who I admired because of her figure, had a boob reduction. That minor thing made me start looking at everyone more critically because if this regular person could get surgery to “improve” her body than I could get only imagine what these celebrities or “chosen people” were doing. Once my eyes were opened, I begin to realize that these images that were causing me to question myself were not even real in many cases. Many of these women that I was admiring, had enhancements that I didn’t even recognize before, even down to using skin bleach (now that’s a real issue). Furthermore, as I started to watch some of these women “shed” these issues, I also started to read their stories about their new found love for themselves. Some of these women were experiencing issues of depression and medical disorders but their pictures were so perfect. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not totally opposed to surgical enhancements but what I’ve learned once I started looking for it, is that body image is deeply connected to our psyche and while we tend not to discuss the impact of the images that we see regularly, they often can change the way we feel about ourselves. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage in habits that will help us maintain a positive body image so that we can help shape the images of the girls that look up to us, whether they are our daughters or our social media followers and I believe it is important that we do this in a realistic way.