So many individuals focus solely on building relationships with others while neglecting the most important one of all: the relationship with yourself. The way you view yourself determines how you will interact with the world. It can be challenging to have a healthy self-esteem if you do not love yourself or your personal image.
What is Body Image?
Body image is the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. 58 percent of Americans replied NO when asked if they are satisfied with their bodies. What is it that causes self-loathing in so many of people when it comes to their outward appearance?
Western culture has an increased emphasis on outward appearance and perfection. We live in a society in which the media digitally retouches photos regularly and contributes to the false ideation of perfection. Social media has also contributed to the cultural messaging that an image with a filter is more flattering. This in turn may lead to negative thoughts about an individual’s body image, increasing the chances of developing a low self-esteem.
Interestingly, personal relationships with friends and family help to shape and influence how we view our bodies. In a research study that observed 75 pairs of female friends, they discovered women’s body image issues were similar to their friends’ body image issues, suggesting that perceptions of friends predict how someone perceive issues with their own bodies.
Parents are the third leading cause of body image issues in girls and adolescents, who often believe their mothers want them to be thin and are 2-3 times more likely to worry about weight. Girls are not alone; 18 percent of teenage boys report being “extremely concerned” about their bodies as well.
In one study, researchers discovered that Americans’ perception of being overweight or obese is inaccurate. During the study, participants were shown images of men and women in a doorway and asked if they were overweight, obese or normal weight. Participants had a 35 percent accuracy for obese women and a 10 percent accuracy for men. What was most disconcerting was that in both cases, there was a gross underestimation of weight status.
What does this mean? It means that Americans have a hard time determining if someone is obese. This may be due to the increased use of vanity sizing through the decades.
Tips to Boost Body Image
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Avoid media outlets that make you feel bad about your body.
- Surround yourself with positive images from TV, social media and magazines/blogs.
- Engage with positive self-talk, self-affirmations and meditation.
- Remember that no one is perfect. Our differences make us beautiful and unique!
Clothing size can be a huge deal to some, but in reality, clothing size does not have much meaning. The discrepancy in clothing size is largely driven by the retail industry, who use Americans’ vanity to their advantage. Vanity sizing is a way of appealing to consumer ego. For example, a clothing store will assign a size 4 on an article of clothing that fits more accurately as a size 8. To give some perspective, in 1958, a woman’s size 8 was a waist size of 23.5 inches and in 2012, a woman’s size 8 was a waist size of 28.75 inches. Have you ever heard someone say, that a particular brand of clothing runs a little “small”? Retailers have capitalized on the concept that consumers would rather purchase a size 4 than a more realistic size 8. It is an unfortunate truth. Consumers want to feel slender which may lead to a false perception of true body image based on clothing size.
How to combat the traps of vanity sizing:
- Do not rely on your clothing size as an indicator of your actual size.
- Consult with your physician to determine your healthy ideal weight and body mass index (BMI).
- Live a healthy lifestyle (i.e. exercise, make good food choices and supplement when appropriate)
- Take your body measurements and monitor them to ensure you are maintaining your ideal body measurements.
- Ignore the label and focus on how you feel in your clothing.
“To thine own self be true!”
The movement towards self-love and appreciating women’s bodies in all shapes and sizes is starting to become the norm. With the “every body is beautiful” movement, women and men are beginning to look within to find validation instead of comparing themselves to magazine covers and common media outlets. In an effort to help, clothing brands have started including models of all shapes and sizes so consumers see women and men that resemble themselves.
The only person to craft your body image should be YOU. You are unique and different which makes you a designer original (pun intended). Through the decades, the idea of perfection will continue to change. Make a declaration that you will stop looking at clothing sizes and focus on becoming the best version of yourself from the inside out. Your value is not in the size of what you wear.