Despite being the most active and engaging season for some, summer can amplify anxiety over body image insecurities in others.
With constant reminders to have the perfect bikini body, it can be a challenge for even confidant women not to become critical of themselves this time of year.
For individuals who already struggle with a distorted body image, the summer season can feel as though a drill sergeant is following you around yelling and holding a micro-scope to every tiny flaw.
Understanding body image
Our body image is the perception we have of our bodies, as well as how we perceive others perceptions of our bodies. Psychological in nature, perceived body image is not based on fact, but influenced by self-esteem, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations of and about our bodies.
It’s fluctuating, as with changes in mood, environment, and physical experience. In childhood we appreciate our own uniqueness and beauty without question, and as we grow this conception will change and develop in part by what we see are the standards of our society.
Public attention, media and growing distortions
Images women are presented with by the media that represent feminine beauty seem inhumanly flawless, and there is the tendency to hold media and celebrity standards as ideal. The message emphasized by movies, magazines, and television programs, is that meeting this ideal of appearance is not only important, but rewarded for both women and men.
Current studies indicate that only one in five women are satisfied with their body, and that 47% of 5th-12th grade girls reported wanting to lose weight after looking through magazines .
Advertising for the summer season has, over the years begun to promote an unrealistic and unhealthy standard for women to achieve the perfect bikini body, which is represented as being very tan, thin and toned.
When Seventeen was first published in 1944, the average model was about 5’7” and 130 pounds. Today’s model is roughly 5’10” (taller than most American women) and her average weight of 115 pounds gives her a BMI lower than that of many women in impoverished, developing countries .
Rejecting the hype
Headlines reading: “Score a beach body ASAP” (www.marieclaire.com) or “Drop Pounds in days” (www.shape.com) suggest the most important issue for women is to achieve a flawlessly smooth, thin body. It can be a challenge to remember when looking at these images alongside the headlines that the model pictured doesn’t even look like that in real life.
Today all photos, television and film are retouched; and nearly all the appearances of women we see are digitally enhanced to strip away any of her natural flaws.
The sensationally airbrushed photos of models and buzzwords like “summer diet” or “bikini-ready abs” are used to hype attention for campaigns, ultimately out to make money. The weight-loss industry alone brings in at least $55.4 billion in revenue per year .
Just as the media isn’t responsible for how people individually perceive their bodies, they also have no accountability for accurately representing what is important for women’s health or well-being. As consumers it’s essential to have a critical eye and recognize negative and distorted messages for what they are.
Make a positive change
As individuals, we decide how to experience the media messages we encounter, which doesn’t mean it’s time to give up all fashion magazines, television or films for being digitally enhanced. Have a discerning outlook of what’s positive and enjoyable versus what triggers insecurity or promotes an unhealthy standard.
By recognizing that having the “perfect body” isn’t the ultimate source of happiness, and appreciating your body for all it does, you can begin to change the script about how we define a healthy summer look.
Behind all the hype generated about a woman’s appearance, summer is about getting out in the warm weather, enjoying swimming or boating without being dampened by fretting over insecurities. Having a positive body image is about respecting your health and well-being, and that of others.
Every Body Is Different
Begin to notice as often as you can (and in a complimentary way) how different people are; we come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors; develop an appreciation for diversity and celebrate it.
Surround yourself with supportive people and encourage dialogue and critical thinking in response to negative messages when you encounter them. Find your unique voice to promote healthy body image in social media by following, sharing and encouraging a more diverse and encompassing view of what beauty is.
These are some of the ways we can take our power back and do with our summer what’s really important- enjoy it!
This article was written by the Castlewood Treatment team. Check out their infographic on body image below.
Click to enlarge: