The body image series – Part 1
What affects body image?
You will be hard pressed to find someone who has never experienced having negative body image. It troubles everyone at one point in time and for a whole variety of reasons which go with a whole variety of body types. I would not go so far as to say having bad body image is natural… but is it normal?
Everyday we are bombarded with images and videos designed specifically to makes us want something, to feel as though we are missing something or to make us feel incomplete. It is ridiculously hard to feel like your body is perfect as is, when we are so adept at singling out the parts of us that we don’t find represented in advertising and the media. And there it is, the worst offender when it comes to affecting body image and self-perception, the media.
Magazines, billboards and television commercials all contribute to worsening self-image. They project an idealised standard of beauty, and one that is unattainable for the majority of people. For girls and women, the body type most often glamourized in the media is thin, athletic, long-limbed, flat stomached and thigh-gapped. You have to remember that the models they use don’t even look like that. Remove the airbrushing and photo shopping that goes into these advertisements and you are still left with a body type that is physically impossible for some people to obtain, and that is because it is ONE body type that the media choose to lord over all the rest. Having a thigh gap, for example, comes down to nothing more than bone structure, and you can’t alter that. A thigh gap is very uncommonly found in women who maintain a healthy body and have the required bone structure. It comes down to the width of your pelvis and the angle that your thigh bones (femurs) attach, no amount of surgery can alter this.
Girls and women in particular are predisposed to carry fat around their thighs and bums, this is something you may notice occurring as you go through puberty and start reaching your late-teens. But not everyone will carry their weight in the same way. In general, the human physique can be broken into three categories for both girls and guys – mesomorph, ectomorph and endomorph – these are called Somatotypes and it is not uncommon for you to be able to identify with 1, 2 or even all 3 of these characteristics. A mesomorph carries more muscle and finds it easier to gain and loose weight, an ectomorph carries less bulk and finds it harder to put on weight, and an endomorph carries more muscle and weight and finds it harder to loose. So in some way, our body types can be accounted for in our genetic make-up, what you get from your mum and your dad.
We compare ourselves to the people we see in day to day life, and most of the time they are the people we see blown up on billboards or glossed over in magazines. The media uses altered and photo-shopped images to sell us anything from groceries to stationary to underwear and we need to remind ourselves that what we are seeing is not representative of all the different and beautiful body types out there in the world. There will be days where that feels impossible and it is then that you need to turn to the people closest to you…and perhaps switch off your iPhone for a little while. Most of the time, getting a little distance from the crazy amount of images out there, is exactly what you need to remind yourself that you are great the way you are.
Until next time!
Asha, your teen-talk blogger