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You are here: Home > Moms > My Self - Body Image and the Myth of Perfection

Body Image and the Myth of Perfection

by Edel Jarboe
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Have you ever taken a good look at the cover of women's fitness magazines? The models are thin but they aren't "fit". They seem to be the direct opposite of what the magazine is about - fitness. Shouldn't the cover of a woman's fitness magazine show a real woman with muscle tone and not just another "perfect" body? Unfortunately, we'll probably never see a typical American woman on the cover of any woman's magazine. Our society is very "outer oriented" and it is the media's job to sell the myth of perfection.

According to the American Psychological Association, 30-40% of Americans are somewhat unhappy with their appearance while another 45% may experience anxiety or depression due to dissatisfaction with their appearance. In other words, we are buying into the myth.

We are also punishing ourselves for not having perfect bodies. It's our body's fault that we aren't happy- with our relationships, our jobs, and our lives. Therefore, we deny our bodies desserts, new clothes, and even love. Sadly, a lot of us hate our bodies (or certain parts) and this negative body image poisons the rest of our self-image. If you don't love all of you, how can you really be happy?

How do you protect your self-esteem from the dangerous promise of perfection offered by the media? Be honest with yourself and practice self-acceptance. Due to genetics and body types, all of us can't be thin but we can all be healthy. Instead of comparing yourself to a model on the cover of a magazine, look in the mirror to find your own standard of beauty. Ask yourself if you are feeding your body nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Ask yourself if you are at a healthy weight -for you. In addition, self-acceptance means that you choose to feel good about yourself and to take care of yourself, regardless of society's standards. If you love yourself, love handles and all, your feelings about your body will not be influenced by media images.

Make Peace with Your Body

Quit dissecting your body.
"I like my thighs but I hate my fat stomach," for example harm your self-image. Appreciate how well your whole body works together to keep you going strong. Love the whole you. Don't punish your body by playing mind games with food. Food is not the enemy. Eat healthy but don't obsess. Allowing yourself to enjoy treats helps prevent binge eating and keeps you in control. Focus on who you are and not just on what your body looks like.

Acknowledge the whole you and not just your body.
What are your gifts, talents, and dreams? What have you done to uncover your hidden assets? How many lives have you touched? How is the world a better place because you are in it? Speak lovingly and positively to yourself.

Fight negative self-talk by complimenting yourself.
Look for the good and praise it. Remind yourself how wonderful you are. Take pleasure in just being alive. Be grateful for all you have and all that you are able to experience. Life is too short to be miserable over the external things that will fade away with time. Focus on living each moment from the inside out.

Pamper your body.
Treat yourself to a facial, a manicure, or a pedicure. Indulge in a long, hot bubble bath. Wear a wonderful fragrance. Take off your rose-colored glasses. Look at the other real bodies around you. The majority of us are not models. Appreciate the beauty of your own body and stop comparing yourself to glossy media images.

Learn the basics of exercise and nutrition and set realistic goals.
Your focus should always be on your health. Be the star of your own fitness program. Walk, run, bike, or do aerobics. Exercise makes you feel good about your body. Indulge your body in fun, feel-good activities often.

Dress up your self-esteem by taking care of your appearance.
Wear clothes that are flattering to your figure no matter what size you wear. Stop waiting until you lose a "little more weight" before feeling good about yourself.

Ask for support and encouragement from family and friends when life is stressful and/or you are feeling down.
Focus on living a whole and fulfilled life- both personally and professionally. Enjoy family, friends, and, most importantly, life. Do something everyday that brings you joy.

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