Little Known Facts on The Importance of Self Image

It is not a surprise to most people that health studies point to

popular culture as a perpetrator of body image which has

corresponded to the self image and well being of women AND men.

What may surprise you is that this is not a new phenomenon.

Is the rail thin appearance of runway and magazine models a new

obsession which has started young girls and women on a path

towards starvation, malnutrition and disorders such as anorexia

and bulimia?

Actually, No.

The western world created a popular culture of ‘you can never be

to thin’ as early as the 20’s when flapper styles caused women to

starve and over exercise their bodies to attain the flat chested,

androgynous look that was popular at that time.

The fuller figure did make a comeback during the depression, but

quickly reverted in the 60’s with thinness being equated with

physical beauty.

Studies on self image indicate that women tend to consider

themselves heavier than they really are. This distorted body

image is linked to unhealthy dietary practices like anorexia and

bulimia.

Although distorted body image affects men and women of all age

ranges, it is middle and upper class women who are most commonly

affected in thinking they are too heavy and need to loose weight.

Girls as young as nine are following the paths set down by

mothers, sisters and others.

On the other hand, men with body image problems often feel they

are too thin and use of steroids by youths trying to build muscle

mass shows that they are also adversely affected by media

portrayals of the body.

Bad self image is learned. This can be clearly illustrated by a

study conducted by WHO with Canadian students. The study showed

that the confidence of children dropped dramatically through the

pre-teen years. The percentage of 11 year old boys and girls who

felt confident all of the time was 47% and 35% respectively. By

age 15 the percentage dropped to 30% for boys and a disappointing

14% for girls.

What are we teaching our children?

In a quote from Health Canada based on a research program for

VITALITY the following report was made: “Slimness in western

cultures is associated not only with success and sophistication,

but with character virtues. Conversely, obesity is the opposite

of all these things and, particularly in the case of women, is

associated with failure and a collapse of self-discipline.”

Self image is tied to several factors, only one of which is body

image. Self image is part of self awareness and starts early in

childhood, even before speech. As we become adults many tie their

self image to such factors as job success, relationships and

abilities. Body image – if a person has a negative view of

themselves physically – can be one of the most dramatic

influences.

Health Canada’s findings show that although self image may be

subject to change throughout our life, our “fundamental sense of

feeling worthy or unworthy (self-esteem) remains relatively

stable”. This means that it is while children are still young

that the most impact is made on their future self image. Creating

a safe, nurturing and loving environment can be the greatest

protection against negative body image and low self-esteem.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes

only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any

disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any

health care program.