How many times a day do you think or say something negative about your body, whether it be to yourself or someone else? I don’t complain once a day but I certainly think something negative a few times a day. I figured it was pretty normal behavior, but is it?
Studies show that most women suffer from body image issues. Psychology Today found that 44% of women express negative feelings about both individual body parts and their bodies as a whole. And 56% of the women and about 40% of the men who responded to the survey were dissatisfied with their overall appearance.
Many attribute these numbers to the emphasis in the media and in the fashion industry on thinness and on an ideal female body shape and size. These persistent images and icons of size zero beauty can be psychologically detrimental to the well-being of many young women.
The fact is human society has always placed great value on the beauty of the human body and the feeling of not measuring up can be alienating. This perceived societal pressure gives rise to excessive dieting and/or exercise, eating disorders and body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is defined as a preoccupation with an imagined or trivial defect in appearance that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
While I am not so obsessed that it encumbers my daily life, my fears were enough to make a recent homework assignment from my trainer harder than suicide sprints.
The assignment was this: Go home and stand in front of the mirror…naked. Look at yourself and say, “You are HOT and SEXY!”
Anyone who knows me well, knows nudity is literally the scariest thing in the world to me—I rather do five sets of lateral sprints! (Just kidding, Loi!) But I did it and although it was difficult (We can’t all be Samantha from Sex and the City.) the result was positive.
I forced myself to take a long, hard look at my reflection and when the negative thoughts rose up—I pushed them away. I took note of things I wanted to improve and applauded the results of my hard work. But, most importantly, I realized that everything I fight off with healthy diet and exercise means nothing unless I love myself and my body.
It’s important to remember that while the pressures of the media can be overwhelming, your perception of your own body should not correspond to society’s standards. The only standard that matters—is your own.