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Body image: Who is the major influencer?

A commonly believed and misunderstood idea is that we become less comfortable in our own bodies due to the influence of thin, airbrushed models plastered all over the media. However, we should be questioning this assumption, is it only the media that are influencing the young impressionable girls in our society?

It is widely believed that the media is the main culprit in the body image debate, closely followed by the fact that education is the solution to this problem. It seems easier to pass the blame to a third party, the media or the education system, than deal with this problem at the source.

Sarah Newton a youth expert and author, has recently written a novel (Never Mind my Thigh Gap) lightly based on her daughter’s body image issues and in the process of writing it has uncovered some hard to swallow truths. To gain a better understanding of teenagers’ thoughts on body image Sarah Newton carried out a series of interviews.

In contradiction to the widely held assumptions, parents and other family members were ranked very highly as significant influencers on teenager’s lives and in shaping their views on body image. Important lessons should be learnt from these enlightening discoveries, firstly we should be less quick to pass the buck on to celebrities and the media for promoting a stereotyped body image and secondly we need to look at ourselves and evaluate our own body image issues.

Daughters

As mothers, aunties and sisters, we are a huge influence on an impressionable teenager's mind. To begin to change societies warped view of body image, we need to change our opinions about our own bodies. It is imperative that we promote and discuss healthy body image and self-esteem within the everyday environments. How many times as a child did you hear your own mother saying, “Do I look fat in this? Does my bum look big in this? I am so fat I have nothing to wear?” I imagine too many times to even begin to count. It is not surprising that many girls are not satisfied with their bodies, if this is the first impression they receive from their own mothers.

There are reports of children of increasingly young ages having eating disorders or having concerns over their body image and in particular their weight. Surely, this is enough of a wake-up call for us to start taking action. This has to start at home, it is not solely the responsibility of the media or the education system to change this increasingly worrying body image phenomenon.

Obviously it is wrong to take away all blame from the media and that is not what I am suggesting. However, without a change in our own attitudes whatever the media change or not, our negativity about our body image will still be moulding the delicate minds of the young people in our society. Not only do we need to reassess the exclusivity seen in the choice of models used in the media and increase the allocation of time spent in schools on discussing healthy body image, but we also need to promote being truly be happy in our own bodies. As I’ve said before, beauty starts from within.

Take a moment to think about your own body image and where these ideas have come from? Please comment with your thoughts on this important issue below.


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