Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall: An Exercise in Body Image

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Mirror mirror on the wall, do you like what you see at all?

Body image is a multifaceted construct of perception, imagination, emotions, and cognitive components about our relationship with our bodies. Unfortunately this term is mostly used with a negative connotation in conjunction with topics such as eating disorders, depression, and low self esteem. Rarely do we hear about positive body image and that is part of the problem.

Here are some stunning facts:

-50 percent of 3-6 year old girls worry about being fat
-80 percent of girls have tried a fad diet by the time they’re in 4th grade
-80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their appearance

On a daily basis we are bombarded with artificial, photoshopped images, advertised as “real” women. Even articles in magazines promoting healthy body image and being happy with your body use photos that have been retouched/altered to the extreme. Reality check: those bodies don’t exist in real life!! Children grow up in a society that glorifies an ideal body that doesn’t exist. Every day young girls and women tell themselves they’re not thin enough, not pretty enough, not young-looking enough, their breast aren’t big enough, that wrinkles, stretch marks, and cellulite are disgusting. Who decided this and why? It surely wasn’t based on promoting health. No, it is based on making money. If everyone felt good about himself or herself, imagine the decline in plastic surgery, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, not to mention all the other industries benefiting from your negative body image.

The quest for the unachievable body is futile, explaining why more women feel the pressure to resort to plastic surgery in an effort to keep that ideal image alive. The futility of this battle is based in a process that is natural and happens to everyone, no matter your gender, race, and economic status: aging!!

As we age, our bodies will go through changes and with that, aging inevitably moves us further away from the sociocultural ideal body that is supposed to be thin and young forever. It’s a lost battle.

Negative body image is not inborn but learned! Unlearn it!! As Iman said, “Approve of yourself before seeking approval from others.”

So how do we fix it? There is no simple answer to it but here are some tips that can help:

– Kill your inner supermodel! Don’t try to look like someone else!

– Pay attention to your own body and know what you can and cannot achieve, what’s realistic and what’s not. Push yourself to be the best you can be but never chase someone else’s version of you. It’s pretty simple: you can’t be someone else!

– Focus on health and quality of life vs. appearances: health has no age limit, appearances   will change!

– Spend time with real people instead of watching the media’s version of what’s real

– Talk to your children about body image

Note: I would like to note that this article focuses on women because they consistently report greater dissatisfaction with their bodies than men, but the issue of negative body image does not exclude men.

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