Body image and self-esteem both focus on how we feel about ourselves. A person’s
perception of their body image and the feelings that are associated with that image greatly influence their self-esteem. Many people with a negative body image are more likely to experience depression, social anxiety or shyness, struggle with eating or have difficulties achieving sexual satisfaction. Generally, people with a poor body image will struggle to feel good about themselves and this can greatly affect their ability to reach their full potential in other areas of their lives.
Cultural pressures to look good means that women strongly associate their worth with their attractiveness. This is made worse by cultural pressures to be inappropriately thin; a
tendency to overestimate women’s body size and shape but not men’s; and high levels of social comparison among women. The strongest factor, which is thought to increase the risk of developing an eating problem, is the process of internalisation of society role model standards. For example, one women might see a model in a magazine or on Instagram and think, ‘I’m bigger than her and I need to look like that to look good, better lose weight’. Whereas another women may see the image and think, ‘she looks good! I wasn’t born that way though, not a chance!’
The media is full of unrealistic images of people’s bodies. If you’ve got Insta then I’m sure
you know how the filters work to cover our blemishes. It’s a shame here in the UK we have not yet passed the law that all photoshopped media images need to be labelled as research shows the link between photo retouching with people who develop eating disorders, have body-image anxiety and develop other serious health problems. Maybe if we were aware that the image of the woman on the front page of a fashion magazine had had 3 inches photoshopped from her waist and shoulders made to look smaller than her hips, less people would strive for the impossible or even be less dissatisfied about their own body image?
Body image and self-esteem are about respecting yourself and thinking realistically. Try and catch yourself next time you start judging your body image or start comparing yourself to someone else. Are you succumbing to the cultural pressures we’ve just discussed? Perhaps instead try and recognise the qualities and strengths that make you feel good about yourself.