Your body image is an important part of your self-esteem. If you see yourself in a good, healthy, comfortable way you will tend to be happier and lead a more pleasant life, but if you see yourself in a bad, degrading, toxic way you will learn to hate your body and will poison your attitude towards everyday life. Many factors go into how you see yourself; social media, interactions with friends, family and strangers, societal norms, peer pressure, how you eat, how much you sleep and exercise and how you act.
Men and women alike residing in the United States have been criticized for the image they present to society. In the last couple decades, social media has been blowing up with endless descriptions of the ideal body type for men and women, specifically in young people. “For children, teenagers and young adults, the power of social media can be even more confronting, shaping and sculpting influential minds and prescribing fads and trends that are blindly adhered to.” (Social Media and Body Image…, Bella&Bhakti) These younger generations see a “better” version of themselves through the screens of their cell phones and computers as a tanned Victoria’s Secret models or G.I. Joe figurines. “Advertising, particularly for fashion and cosmetics, has a powerful effect on how we see ourselves and how we think we should look. Women’s magazines in particular have a tremendous influence on body image, with researchers reporting that teenage girls rely heavily on them for information on beauty and fashion, valuing their advice nearly as highly as that of their peers.” (Body Image -- Advertising and Magazines) They see the same unnatural body types on Instagram, in magazines, in movies, almost every source of entertainment we have become adapted to.
The mindset that these younger generations are thinking themselves into is unhealthy. “The strength and predominance of social media has the ability to shape young minds and dictate ideas about body image that can instill a deep-seated self consciousness and confusion over what is in fact healthy and unhealthy when it comes to both appearance and behavior.” (Social Media and Body Image…, Bella&Bhakti) For girls, the pressure to be a different body shape, size, skin color, or even race is heavy; especially when the images of toned bodies are in the palms of our hands. Cell phones now hold the power to instantly change a girl’s view of herself in a second. “Image after image offers the perfect body, flawless skin, bright smiles and a carefully sculpted ratio of gaps to curves. Of course, it doesn’t matter if the images have been cropped, filtered and amended by the user to create a far better version of the original. What is seen is the final product, not the touch ups.”
Boys are similar in the thought process of girls, but also very different. “A new study of a national sample of adolescent boys, published in the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique.” (Body-Image Pressure Increasingly Affects Boys, Jamie Santa Cruz) Boys were more concerned with muscles and six-pack abs as a perfect and more attractive body type or just a thin body in general. Although, only 1-2% of men and boys have this image. “There’s a major difference between boys and girls when it comes to weight concerns: whereas girls typically want to be thinner, boys are as likely to feel pressure to gain weight as to lose it.” This study has shown that eating disorders are becoming more common in men and boys.
Since body image affects both men and women, both genders don't know what to ask themselves when they feel like they don't know if their body image is positive or negative. Both men and women should consider these questions: how do you feel when you look in the mirror?, what do you think other people think about when observing you?, can you list three favorite things about your body? Do you often feel jealous of other people for the way they look?
Social media has created many problems for both men and women alike. People have put into their heads that others should determine what they should look like. Based on social media, people have created what society calls the perfect body image. Body image has created unnecessary expectations for girls and boys to stress over. People have formed unhealthy habits to achieve what society wants for the perfect image. Everyone knows the pressure of the “ideal body image” and we see what people want anywhere in the world because if models who set the rules for a type of body image are being used for advertising. Because of our history, our bodies have many obligations that are very unrealistic to people trying to achieve them. One thing that you can do to help change society’s definition of what the “ideal body image”: tell us your story, we want to hear them. You are important and the most important part of living is being true to you. So go post a picture and share your story on social media and encourage others to do the same. The most important thing that you can do is love who you are and accept that you are unique in your own way. Don’t try to change that based on society’s image of perfection. Use the hashtag #RONow17MyImage on Twitter or Instagram to share your story.