Body image and Self Esteem -
and how they may stop you living better longer

Has it ever occurred to you that your body image and self esteem are stopping you from living as fully as you could?  Distress over our bodies is now so common that it's even coined a phrase:  "normative discontent."  In other words it's now considered 'normal' to feel discontented with your body.  How sad is that!   How much, and how often do YOU experience distress about your body?  And what's causing all these issues?

Our body esteem issues are manufactured for us

self esteem and media

You may be surprised to find out that nowadays we hardly see any images that aren't photoshopped! The media and body image are very culpable when it comes to our  self esteem and body image issues.  

The problem is that whole industries have a LOT invested in having us believe that we are never good enough.  Do you find yourself comparing yourself to images of beauty and thinking: "I need look like this. If only I were thinner taller skinnier prettier more glamorous leggy then I'd be worthy, then I'd be lovable."  The odd thing about this is that centenarians (those people who live to over 100) really aren't all that concerned or bothered by the standards of other people when it comes to their appearance which isn't to say they don't take care of themselves, they just aren't obsessed with how they look. 

Andy Roddick

Roddick is quoted as saying:  "...I'm not as fit as the Men's Fitness cover suggests...little did I know I have 22 inch guns and a disappearing birth mark on my right arm... I walked by the newsstand in the airport and did a total double take ...whoever did this has mad skills."

Well photoshoppists might have mad skills - but do they ever stop to think how self esteem and body image are tied together and how body image and the media affect millions of men and boys in a negative way.

So guess what they did a body switch on him too and the fact that he doesn't mind, but thinks it's funny that they didn't deem his own body good enough - says a lot! (Frankly I find it refreshing)

In one online poll of 42 422 people 93% of people thought his body had been doctored. But how many of us actually remember that when we're blithely flipping through a magazine and feeling increasingly body aware - aware that we don't match up, that is!

So, it's no wonder that Bigorexia (also known as the Adonis complex) - a type of Muscle dysmorphia is growing at an alarming pace as men try to keep up with these images.

Oprah Winfrey

Let's consider what we're really seeing when it comes to body image and the media. Firstly, often what we're seeing is a body double. According to the museum of hoaxes (photo above), with just a bit of nifty photo-shopping Oprah's head was transplanted onto a completely different body,  And let's face it, when it's not a body double, the average model is somewhere between 16 and 24 years of age, chosen precisely because she's: 

  • taller than the average woman, 
  • way skinnier than Ms average (often below what she should be to be medically healthy) 
  • and already has a knock-out body. 
  • ...and ps... she usually hasn't had children either, and because modeling is her profession she has the best photographers, taking her picture under the most ideal conditions, a hair stylist, a make-up artist, time to go to gym etc.. etc...

So what happens to our body image when we compare ourselves to Ms 16 to 24 year old Ms apparently Perfect? Well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that our body image and self esteem plummets. We become less confident and like ourselves less

Stress about our bodies erodes our health and our longevity

Stressing about our body isn't benign.  Our stressful thoughts about our bodies and how we see ourselves, have a corresponding biology of stress hormones that are activated each and every time we think poorly of our bodies and ourselves.  Literally, your cells are listening in, and responding to your thoughts about your body.  These thoughts affect how our cells and immune system function, what hormones our body produces,  how coherent or incoherent are our hearts are and.... they  could even be impacting your longevity gene.  No wonder  The American Stress Institute says that up to 90% of doctors visits are caused by stress)  

Glamour shots perpetuate myths that affect our body image and self esteem.  We believe the lie that thinness means you get the prince, plus the lamborghini, plus the castle on the hill and blissful happiness ever after.  It's a lie because

  • it isn't true, happiness is an internal event and 
  • almost all images these days are  hugely distorted by photo-shopping.  

And that's a pity because what we're buying into is blatantly misleading, and unattainable and by comparison we'll forever be lacking.   Multiple billion-dollar industries benefit from your 'normative body discontent' , and this insecurity has a corresponding health-eroding bio-chemistry. 

When it comes to the body image and self esteem trap we need to ask ourselves.... Do we even know what 'real' bodies look like:

Tips to overcome Body image and self esteem problems 

  • As one person in a forum said: "I like to look at women's belly dancers as reminders of what real bodies look like. I love how they wear skimpy clothes so confidently."

  • I know that for myself - being tricked into going to a nudist campground - was  the best thing that ever happened to my body image and self-esteem. When I compared myself to 'real' bodies instead of photoshopped ones - the body I thought I hated to so much was just fine.    Body images in the media are designed to make us feel less secure about ourselves - without our insecurity we would have no need to buy their make up, hair products, slimming products and so on....

  • Take what you see in pictures with a BIG pinch of salt and whatever you do... don't indulge in body comparison with media images. One research study found it took only 40 seconds of looking at a glamor magazine to feel insecure.  You'll never find yourself on the winning side. It's time for a beauty revolution and one thing you need to know about those people who live to over 100 - they're not into comparison and envy.  Makes you think, doesn't it?

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