Here’s a simple fact: cultural positive body image is on the decline and being replaced by low self-esteem and the negative impacts of negative body image. Everywhere you turn, from Instagram to magazines to television, you are perpetually bombarded with 'perfect-looking' people that strike a chord of insecurity within every one of us. The advertisements we encounter daily use models that leave people wondering, “Why can’t/don’t I look like them?”
Per "5 Facts About Body Image” by Mario Palmer, an overwhelming majority of 91% of people are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of people naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media. Being in that 5% is the equivalent of hitting the genetic lottery. We are tainting our youth with a false mindset that outer appearance is the most important quality rather than kindness or creativity or intelligence; and the effects have already begun to show within the current generations.
A statistic from dosomething.org cites that, students, especially women, who consume more mainstream media, place a greater importance on sexiness and overall appearance than those who do not consume as much. Now how does low self-esteem correlate to body image (the way people view themselves and their body)? According to the United States Department of Health and Human services, body image is closely linked to self-esteem; low self-esteem in adolescents can lead to eating disorders, early sexual activity, substance use and suicidal thoughts. People become so consumed by fixing their flaws, that they engage in self-destructed behaviors and don’t realize how their actions impact those around them. People determine their self-worth by the numbers that they see when they step on a scale rather than by the magnitude of their words and actions.
Body image is a subject I’m all too familiar with, since I’ve struggled with it since I was six years old. It all began when my parents divorced, which caused an enormous cloud of stress and depression to hang over my head. Because of the stress my parent’s split was causing me, I turned to food as a source of comfort. Thus, I gained close to twenty pounds and people certainly noticed the change. At school, I was taunted with names like “fatty” and bullied by my peers because of the weight I had gained. I had members of my own family subjecting me to thinly-veiled, snide remarks about the way I looked. It didn’t get any better as I grew older; with people getting physically violent in the bullying and venomously aggressive with their verbal assaults. In response to these attacks from those around me, I continued my unhealthy diet habits of stress eating and my depression continued in its downward spiral.
I began to lash out in anger towards the people who were my friends because of all the tension I was feeling about the situation. This caused people to feel alienated from me; my mood swings and depression often scared off any potential friends and strained my relationships with some of my closest friends. I had been so wrapped up in my quest to lose weight, in my own way, I had no idea that I was mistreating my friends. Once I finally figured out what I was doing to those closest to me, I had to make a complete 180. I decided that I needed to figure out a healthy way to lose weight, but more than anything else, learn how to feel comfortable in my own skin.
My advice is for people to do some serious soul searching about how they feel in their own skin. Throw out all the imagery that the media churns out that makes you view yourself in a negative light and other people’s opinions. I would ask yourself if you are healthy, if you want to change for yourself and no one else, and do you feel comfortable where you’re at. Then, I would take some time to cleanse yourself emotionally and physically. Don’t chase down extreme diets, weight loss pills, waist trainers, absurd exercise regimens because these options don’t work. In fact, they can cause weight gain. The main goal is to live as healthy as you can without stressing out about it too much and keeping yourself mentally healthy.
Being a certain size or shape can have positive effects on a person. But what most people forget when they are overwhelmed by a negative view of themselves instead of a positive one, is that the perfect body for them isn’t what the media is putting out there. Everyone is different, so it makes sense that everyone would have a variation of perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist, but the closest that we can get to it is all subjective. We need to remember that we should measure our worth in our happiness over what we weigh or are shaped like.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers with a platform to share and help others from their own experiences while also educating others on different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all teenagers around the world and support others. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.