The era of the body as a measurement of our worthiness of love and attention
Once again a warm welcome to your safe space.It is time to get real and chat about something pretty important:
the perception of our body image.This is also why we're keeping it a tad more serious this time. Let's do this!
Recent international research reveals that approximately half of women experience negative body image. Despite the vast array of “solutions” offered by the cosmetic and beauty industry to address various beauty “imperfections” such as overweight, unclear skin, grey hair, crooked teeth, and unwanted hair growth, the pursuit of perfection appears more accessible than ever.
It would seem logical to assume that with these solutions readily available, women would have started to feel more beautiful as well. Paradoxically, however, in this era of enhanced beauty possibilities, dissatisfaction with our own bodies has never been more prevalent.
Why is that? And how can we accept and love the way we look, when all we see are messages about how to improve our physical appearance?
seeing our bodies for what they are
Stand in front of the mirror and try to look objectively at what you see and describe it. Were you able to describe yourself without a little voice in your head popping up telling you some parts would look better if altered? Probably not.
You see, it’s impossible to look at our own bodies objectively. The perception and (positive and negative) judgement we form is shaped by subjective factors, influenced by our emotions, knowledge, past experiences, and expectations.
When we look in the mirror, we do so with the baggage of childhood perceptions, the rejections and affirmations experienced in young adulthood, and behavior learned to deal with all the societal, professional and personal messages that came our way.
what influences our self image?
There are an awful lot of factors that influence our self image, but in the end, self image is a sum of the experiences we have with other people. In addition, the times in which we live with specific ideals of beauty also influence the way we look at ourselves. We live in a time when we are bombarded with the idea that apparent perfection is within everyone's reach if only we try hard enough, pay enough for it, even sometimes suffer enough for it.
Never before has our body taken such a central place in the assessment of ourselves and others. The extreme emphasis on the individual and the pursuit of perfection in all kinds of fields have grown even stronger in the past decades. Our society seems to be addicted to perfecting one's appearance through healthy living and taking measures to look younger and more beautiful.
The deluge of perfect images we get thrown at us daily makes it almost impossible not to fixate on how your body looks. Combined with the message that we would be happier if wrinkles were smoothed away and our legs were soft and hairless. When you take all the studies together, it becomes clear that these influences collectively contribute to a diminished satisfaction with our own looks, particularly for those already grappling with insecurities.
Multiple studies on the relationship between (social) media influence and body image shows that seeing many manipulated beauty images increases the desire for cosmetic surgery.
A diversity of stories and images about the body is very much needed. The more different images of beauty that circulate in a society, the more normalized all types of bodies and appearances will become.
The more rigid and ‘exclusive’ a beauty ideal is, the fewer people fit into it. What we don’t realize is that not our bodies, but the messages society pins into our heads are the biggest problem.
And until there is awareness of how these messages and images affect our heads, it is very hard to change one’s self image.
Research shows that a step towards more body acceptance is to focus on the things we can do with our bodies in everyday life instead of evaluating them based on appearance. It's not about being perfectly happy with everything you can do with it, but mainly about accepting what the body can do and why that is so important to you.
Hugging loved ones, listening to music, tasting and eating pizza, writing down our feelings and thoughts, walking in nature, smelling the scent of fresh bread, running to the train, dancing in our underwear, singing in the shower, going for a jog, … Reflecting on what is important to you and what role your body plays in this is a very nice first step.
There are lots of different small steps you need to take on a daily basis. Among other things, by changing the way we talk to and treat ourselves and adjusting the media we consume. A habit to develop that contributes to feeling more positive about our body.
There will always be new challenges involving body changes, such as getting pregnant and getting older, so instead of bashing our bodies for living, what if we could change our point of view and be proud of all it does for us?