With the rise of the “Influencer” and #fitspo accounts, we are now exposed to more beauty and body-related images than ever before. What kind of effect does this have on social media users, and who influences body image? We take a look.
Firstly, What Is Body Image?
There Are Four Aspects Of Body Image:
How you see yourself (Perceptual)
This is what you see when you look in the mirror. However, this isn’t always accurate.
Some people have a distorted view of their bodies when they look in the mirror or see photos of themselves. They might view themselves as being overweight when in reality, they are at a healthy weight.
How you feel about your appearance (Affective)
I.E., “I’m feeling myself, I love my body type!” Or “I’m so big, I should eat less.”
The thoughts and beliefs you have about your body (Cognitive)
A common thought is that you may feel happier if you were thinner. Or more desirable if your body was curvier.
How you act because of the way you look (Behavioral)
If someone is concerned with their body shape or size, they may increase their physical activity to reach a certain weight.
Or develop an eating disorder or habits like binge-eating, dieting, avoiding certain food groups, or cutting calories.
Who Influences Body Image?
As you can see, body image is complex, and it encompasses more than just what you see when you look in the mirror. Let’s take a look at what/who influences body image.
A caring, supportive, nurturing environment can help promote a positive body image, but unfortunately, that isn’t the reality for everyone.
Your environment and life experiences can affect your self-esteem and how you view your body. Factors like society, culture, relationships, peers, and family/parent influences can influence your body image, be it positive or negative.
For example, if a child faces criticism for their eating habits or weight while growing up, it may cause a negative relationship with food.
Or, if someone comes from an environment with pressure to over-exercise or look a certain way, it may lead to a negative body image.
There is no denying the profound effect social media has on body image, especially for young people.
We are now exposed to unrealistic beauty standards at every scroll. From influencers in bikinis, before and after “fitspo” pics, to “what I eat in a day” videos.
When an influencer posts a #bodygoals pic, what we don’t see is the vast amount of professional retouching that’s done. But what we do see is an unattainable “perfect body.”
This unrealistic body standard can cause individuals to think negatively about their own body image. Seeing this unattainable “perfect body” can lead to eating disorders, excessive physical exercise, and restricting foods. And it may also cause people to experience mental health issues like low self-esteem, anxiety, and even depression.
A 2018 research study found a correlation between the time spent on social media and negative body image and body dissatisfaction in young women.
Like social media, mainstream media can have a negative effect on body image. When we flick through a magazine or turn on the TV, we don’t see a representation of different shapes, weights, and sizes.
What we do see is an unrealistic image of the “ideal body.” The problem with these images and messages we are bombarded with is that they simply aren’t attainable.
It’s important to understand that celebrities likely have personal trainers providing work out plans and 1.1 support during physical exercise. Plus, private chefs focusing on preparing healthy, good-quality food for them. AND nutritionists who help monitor and control their diets, health, and weight.
However, we as the public don’t see that. And it tends to have people believing that their body isn’t good enough if it doesn’t look like the bodies they see on TV. Rather, they see their body and appearance as something they need to improve, change or “fix.“
Who Influences Body Image? Is Social Media Responsible For Negative Body Image?
A variety of factors can influence body image. But in today’s age, social media plays the biggest role in influencing body image. And that’s because it is such a large part of our life as a society.
You may not be aware of the unhealthy effect it is having on your body image and even your mental health. But seeing these unrealistic, unattainable bodies is bound to have ramifications, especially for teenage girls and young people.
So, what can we do to help ourselves develop a healthy body image while on social media?
How To Develop A Positive Body Image
Unfollow Accounts That Don’t Make You Feel Good About Your Body
You know all those #fitspo and #thinspo accounts clogging up your feed with pics of everything they eat in a day? Or the models and celebs posing with their tummy tea? It’s time to hit the unfollow button.
And if your peers, friends, or family posts pics that don’t make you feel good about your appearance, don’t be afraid to mute.
Ask yourself, does following this account help my body image? Or does it bring about a negative experience and feelings about my body?
Instead, start following accounts that focus on including a diverse range of bodies! Look out for communities that highlight body positivity for all shapes and sizes.
While social media certainly has its downsides, there are some uplifting, encouraging communities out there. You may just have to do a little bit of research to find your people!
Use Affirmations To Help Form A Positive Body Image
How you talk to yourself has more impact than you may know. So the next time you’re looking in the mirror, instead of criticizing, try complement yourself instead! Tell yourself something you love about your body.
Or, if that feels a little too uncomfortable right now, try one of these positive affirmations instead.
“I love my body, and I accept myself.” “I am perfect just the way I am.” “My body is a gift, and I nourish it by eating healthy foods. “There is no “ideal” body, weight, shape or size.” “I do not need to compare my body to anyone else.” “I am thankful for my health and my body.”
If you’re not up for talking to yourself just yet, write your affirmations in a (V cute) journal!
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