Factors that affect body image and self esteem

Various factors will affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies. We can control some factors but we can't control them all. Certain factors may also affect one person more than the other. How we react to all these factors influences our self-esteem and body image. Let's take a closer look at some of these factors.

 The Media

The media is a powerful force in our lives. Movies, music, TV, video games, magazines and social media affect how we see ourselves and our environment. This impact starts in early childhood. It is good for us to question the messages we see every day about beauty and body shape.

You can ask yourself questions like:

  • Who created the message or ad?
  • Who is the message meant for?
  • Who is the message trying to reach and why?
  • What creative things are used to get my attention?
  • What values, lifestyles, and positive points of view does the message show or not show? 
 Models and the Beauty/Fashion Industry

Every day we see ads from the beauty, fashion, diet and exercise industries that show "perfect" bodies. Many of us compare ourselves to these ads. This can lead to low self-esteem and poor body image because messages and images on the internet, social media, TV, radio and in video games affect how we see others and ourselves. These messages can change how we dress, look, eat, and act with others. We often subconsciously compare ourselves to these images and form our identity based on them.

So what can you do about it? It's important to remember that the images of beauty are not realistic and are made to make the models look more beautiful or thinner. Companies use things like airbrushing, soft focus cameras, digital editing, makeup application or cosmetic surgery to make models look a certain way. Even models and celebrities don't meet the beauty industry standards.

When looking at a beauty advertisement, ask yourself:

  • Do real women, men, people look like the models?
  • Will buying this product make me look like this?
  • Does this model really use the product to help them get that look?
  • How does this message make me feel?
  • What do these messages have to do youth?
 Athletes and the Sports Industry

What about athletes we look up to? Just like models and actors, athletes are marketed for their "ideal" body shape. Some of us may see this new "norm" and try to achieve an athletic look by doing unhealthy things like:

  • Exercising too much
  • Dieting too much, cutting out certain food groups or being too focused on "clean eating" (eating only whole, raw, organic, locally grown foods). This may be a sign of an eating disorder.
  • Taking protein powders, supplements or steroids.

Being active is a great way for you to feel better about yourself and your body. But working out only to get a muscular body and doing extreme things to achieve it is a concern. You may feel the pressure from coaches and teammates to "bulk-up" to achieve a muscular and lean body that is often not possible. In fact, only 1-2% of the population has a body naturally lean like the "ideal" shown in the media. Did you know that most sports stars train for long hours as part of their job and have a team of professionals supporting them? The same is true for actors. Even then athletes and actors are still subject to: airbrushing, soft focus cameras, digital editing, makeup or cosmetic surgery to make them look "perfect".

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