It’s difficult to understand exactly what a woman sees when she looks in the mirror. Yes, she sees her face, her body, and her daily appearance. But she also sees a laundry list of flaws and imperfections, tiny things that make her feel she isn’t quite as good as other women she sees around her. Body image and self perception are powerful, and they can affect more than just the feelings we experience when we look in the mirror or try on a swimsuit. Thoughts and feelings about our bodies can actually change our entire world.
Negative Body Image
Unfortunately, it seems like most women struggle with negative body image. We’re critical of our weight, our shape, our coloring, our quirks and imperfections… anything that might seem to fall short of “the perfect body.” Although no one can quite agree on what this “perfect body” may look like, images are thrown at us from every angle. Edited photos on the covers of magazines give women unrealistic expectations about what they should look like. Marketing campaigns from beauty and health industries try to convince us that we aren’t good enough right now, but with their product we can be eventually! This is particularly concerning when you realize that about half of girls enter elementary school with concerns about their bodies that will last a lifetime. Negative body image causes serious issues like anxiety and eating disorders, as well as constant fear of being “good enough,” “thin enough,” or “pretty enough.” For more information on the dangers of negative body image, see this helpful infographic.
Positive Body Image & Self-Perception
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the effects of positive body image and self-perception are just as staggering. Girls and women who develop a positive view of their body image and learn to distinguish between health and appearance seem to experience an entirely different world. When they look in the mirror they are able to call themselves beautiful. When they see a tiny model on a billboard ad, they understand that it isn’t real. When they see another woman who is has beauty and impressive physical features, they can appreciate their own body and understand differences in shape and size with natural consequences.
Women with realistic and loving self-perception are better able to deal with the challenges of everyday life. They can interact with others with more self confidence and focus for the things that matter. They form more healthy relationships with friends, family, and significant others. They develop a relationship with food, diet, and exercise that keeps them healthy and happy, rather than crippled by addiction and anxiety.
It is critical that teen girls spend more time learning about their bodies and the harmful effects of negative body image. We need to model positive body image for them, and seek help if their body image and self-perception are causing problems that could affect their future. Change their body image – change their world.