Body Image Essay

The term “body image” describes a person’s inner sense of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the physical appearance of his or her body. For most of us, our body image reflects reality: whether we gain or lose a few pounds, achieve muscular definition through exercise or develop “love handles,” we generally know it. Our body image is a relatively accurate reflection of these constant changes. Body Image is how we see and picture ourselves. It is how we feel that others perceive us and what we believe about your physical appearance. Body image has to do with how we feel being inside of our bodies.

It is something that is not static, and changes quite often. It is sensitive to our changes in mood, environment, and our physical experiences. It is not something that is based on facts, but something that is created in our minds about ourselves and is influenced by our self-esteem and our society’s physical attractiveness standards. It is not something that we are born thinking, but what we learn from our family members, peers and society. Body Image issues are a major concern in our society. Western society places a high value upon appearance.

Self-worth is higher for those who are judged as being attractive. Those who are judged as unattractive can feel as though they are disadvantaged. This message from the media, fashion and our peers can create a longing to win the approval of our culture and fit in at any cost. And this can be very disastrous to our self esteem. There is an increased amount of people having eating disorders, numerous plastic surgeries, and obsessions with exercising and staying fit. Body image dissatisfaction is so epidemic in our society that it’s almost considered normal.

Recent studies show preschoolers are already exposed to hearing that certain types of foods, especially sugar, might make them “fat. ” The media sends powerful messages to girls and women about the acceptability (or unacceptability) of their bodies. Young girls are thought to compare themselves to women portrayed as successful in the media, assessing how closely they match up to the “ideal” body form. Unfortunately, the majority of girls and women (96%) do not match up to the models and actresses presented in the media. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 110 pounds, whereas the average women is 5’4″ and weighs 142 pounds.

This is the largest discrepancy that has ever existed between women and the cultural ideal. This discrepancy leads many women and girls to feel inadequate and negative about their bodies. It is important to realize that only 4% of women genetically have the “ideal” body currently presented in the media, the other 96% of women feel they must go to extreme measures to attempt to reach this unobtainable image. Many of the images presented in the media have been computer enhanced and airbrushed. The models’ hips and waists have often been slimmed and their breasts enlarged through computer photo manipulation.

Many of the women presented in the media suffer from an eating disorder or have adopted disordered eating behaviors to maintain such low body weights. It is important to start to question images in the media and question why women should feel compelled to “live up” to these unrealistic standards of beauty and thinness. Kids as early as the third grade are concerned about their weight. But the most vulnerable are teenagers. This is the age we are most impressionable and start to develop self-confidence and self-perception. Body shapes are changing rapidly.

About half of female teens think they’re too fat and almost 50% are dieting. There is a lot of pressure to succeed and fit in. One of the ways to fit in is to have “the perfect body. ” The diet/fitness craze is extreme. It’s not just dieting; it is diet foods, and diet commercials. Everybody’s counting fat grams. Listen to the conversation in the lunch room, locker room or on the bus to school. The talk centers on dieting, fat thighs or tight “abs” and how many pounds can be lost with the latest diet. This kind of intense focus on food and fat can lead to eating disorders, which is taking it to the extreme.

Many famous people have admitted that their struggles with eating disorders. Awareness of eating disorders got a big boost in 1995 when Princess Di began talking openly about her struggles with bulimia. Actress Tracy Gold, still struggling with her eating disorder, continues to help others by discussing her eating disorder with the media. Recently many organizations have initiated an effort to expand awareness of eating disorders and promote a positive body image and self esteem. Images of success in women portray the ideal woman as smart, popular, successful, beautiful and very thin.

Pressure to measure up is great, and is constantly reinforced by family and friends, as well as advertising and popular media. Women still are taught that their looks will determine their success, and that thin equals beautiful. Whenever there is a gap between the cultural image of this ideal woman and an individual’s self-perception, consequences may be temporary or only negligibly significant. For others, anxiety, depression, reclusiveness, chronically low self-esteem, compulsive dieting or eating disorders may develop.

The results can be tragic: 25 percent -30 percent of women with eating disorders remain chronically ill, and 15 percent will die prematurely. Women are prone to more negative feelings about their bodies than men. In general, women are more psychologically invested in their physical appearance. Your body image is central to how you feel about yourself. Research reveals that as much as 1/4 of your self-esteem is the result of how positive or negative your body image is. Unfortunately, many women with eating disorders have a larger percentage of their esteem invested in their bodies.

Women with eating disorders often exhibit unequivocal body image misperception, in which they misperceive the size of part, or the entire body. Hence they are “blind” to their own figures. This distortion is real and it is not due to “fat,” but to the eating disorder illness. Even Men are responding to the consumer culture that is less and less forgiving toward those who are not young, trim, and attractive. Recent advertising images of men portray perfection. They’re having manicures, dyeing their hair, concealing blemishes, and getting facials.

Cosmetic companies have persuaded men with macho-sounding campaigns for their men’s product lines. Cosmetic surgery, with ads promising quick and easy high-tech results, is being marketed to men the way sports cars and stereo equipment are sold — as accessories to make them more attractive, powerful, and masculine. “It’s extremely important for the working man to appear energetic and youthful,” says a Web site ad for the Palm Beach Plastic Surgery Center. “You may feel young and ready to go, but your sagging lids, loose neck, or thinning hair may portray a less vibrant impression than you would like. As one male University of California at Berkeley professor who had facial plastic surgery puts it, “If it’s available, and it makes me look better, and I have the money, why not? It’s not any stupider than going out and buying a Jaguar. ” Women are no longer settling for chubby, balding executives. They don’t have to. “It used to be that men responded to physical beauty and women responded to power and status,” says David Sarwer, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Human Appearance. “Now women have their own power and status, and they’re looking for more attractive men. Increasingly, men are coming in for antiaging treatments,” continues Sarwer. “The baby boomers, who have been the generation on the forefront of so many social changes, are now marching to the cosmetic surgeon’s office. ” In some ways, this new trend among men finally validates what women have always known: Looking good is hard work. But it’s also ironic. Feminists who had hoped that gaining equality in the workplace would mean they could stop worrying so much about appearance are finding that men are worrying more about their own — and haven’t learned any lessons from women’s body-image issues.

Of the millions of people diagnosed with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia each year, almost 10 percent are men, and silicone calf and pectoral implants — to beef up the less-than-muscular leg or chest — are also gaining popularity among men. Still, men are far from being as anxious or depressed as women about their looks. “There’s definitely more emphasis on men’s looks, bodies, and weight than in any time in the past, but I don’t think men will ever feel the intense pressure to be trim and attractive that women face every day,” says (Debbie Then).

But with cosmetic surgery ads that emphasize self-esteem, it can’t be long before men start taking their physical imperfections to heart. Indeed, men are growing more insecure and dissatisfied with their body images. I feel that these programs do nothing but hurt us, and brainwash the world. Every person in the world has at least one thing that they don’t like about them. I feel that this doesn’t mean that we have to change it. The way we look is how we are supposed to. Most of the time society only sees the good stories of plastic surgery, but the bad stories are usually left out when they should be seen.

When an individual is receiving plastic surgery the possible side affects typically aren’t a concern, until they are reality. Many people have to have the surgery done numerous times and some of these surgeries result in death. These deaths could have been prevented by these individuals researching the pros and cons of getting plastic surgery. I believe that the cons definitely outweigh the pros. I understand if a someone needs a surgery in order to survive and it will help to improve the quality of their life.

But, if the individual only wants it to try and improve their looks and get the so-called, “perfect body” I disagree with it. Today people have a hard time looking at themselves because they are overweight and they have been taking the easy way out by getting surgery, liposuction, and even getting there stomach stapled. All this ties back to how unhealthy America is. Many people eat fast food everyday. Don’t even think about eating anything else but McDonalds, and other fast food restaurants.

This is the worst thing that they could do because in the long run they are only hurting themselves. There should also be a better selection of foods at these places, and they should all be required to have a healthy menu. Something that I have learned since I was a kid was to always love your body, and never be ashamed of what you have. If I want to change something about myself I work hard and I make it happen. I’m not saying that this is the only way or that this is the best way but it works for me and I believe that more people should use this type of approach.

It is important to combat negative body image because it can lead to depression, shyness, social anxiety and self-consciousness in intimate relationships. Negative body imagecan also lead to an eating disorder. It is time that people stop judging their bodies so harshly and learn to appreciate their inner being, soul, and spirit. A human body is a biological masterpiece. Start to recognize you do not have to compare yourself to other people in the media. Begin to challenge images presented in the media and realize that your worth does not depend on how closely you fit these unrealistic images.