With summer slowly coming to fruition or an end (depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you are), it’s STILL that time of the year where we can all pull on our togs, head down the beach and make the most of the water. However for some of us summer is incredibly anxiety provoking, with worries around body image and whether or not we have the perfect bikini body. With the growing number of magazines flaunting the apparent “perfect bikini body” it can be a challenge for even confident people not to become critical of themselves. For individuals who struggle with 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 its nature, perceived body image is not based on fact, but influenced by self-esteem, imagination, emotions and physical sensations of and about our bodies. Our body image perception fluctuates just like our mood changes. During our childhood we appreciate our own uniqueness and beauty without question yet as we grow this conception changes and develops and for the most part this is caused by apparent sociological norms we are exposed too.
So what are the sociological norms? Well, in the most part people are presented with images from the media that make beauty seem inhumanly flawless; and unfortunately there is a tendency to hold media and celebrity standards as the norm. This message becomes further emphasized by movies, adverts, magazine and television programmes which promote not only the importance of meeting this ‘perfect’ appearance but you are rewarded for doing so. What do we mean by ‘perfect’- well advertising over the years has created the perception of a perfect body being very tanned, thin and toned.
A recent American study suggested that only 1 in 5 women are satisfied with their body, and that 47% of 5th – 12th grade girls reported wanting to lose weight after looking through magazines. We couldn’t believe it either! It’s worth remembering that today all photos, television and film are retouched and nearly all the images of both men and women we see are digitally enhanced to strip away any natural flaws. It can be challenging as individuals to remember when looking at these images that the model pictured doesn’t actually look like that in real life. As consumers it’s essential to have a critical eye and recognize negative and distorted images/ messages for what they are.
Make a Positive Change
As individuals, the power is in our hands to decide how we experience the media messages we encounter. It doesn’t mean you scrap your favourite magazines all together but 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. Having a positive body image is about respecting your health and well-being. 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 colours; develop an appreciation for diversity and celebrate it. Summer is all about getting outside and having fun in the warm weather without being dampened by fretting over insecurities. 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.
So bust out the togs this February with zero worry and get wet!