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What Is the Connection between Beauty and Body Image?

Article Details
  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 06 March 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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Beauty and body image are related categories, but being beautiful does not always result in a positive body image. The connection between these two issues is created by various social conditions as well as media and personal experience. Body image is cultivated internally, but beauty is often thought of as a socially defined trait. Feeling beautiful and being beautiful are not always the same, but people with a positive body image almost always feel beautiful. These intertwining categories can become problematic when a person's desire to create an aesthetically pleasing appearance affects health or other aspects of life.

Body image is essentially the way a person views his or her body. This includes actual perceptions of that body and opinions about the body's traits. On a subjective level, certain traits might stand out more than others, meaning that body image is not synonymous with appearance. This can create problems when a person is unable to perceive his or her own attractive features.

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Beauty, on the other hand, is typically understood as a social category. What is beautiful is defined by a person's peers, any relevant media, and other groups. Individuals might define beauty in different ways, but that definition is usually informed by group experiences. It is often stated that beauty and body image are more deeply related for women than for men, but this is a problem with terminology that does not express the truth of the situation. Being considered attractive is important to people of both genders, though beauty and body image may be related in different ways depending on gender.

For some people, both beauty and body image are secondary to other qualities, like talent and intelligence. This does not detract from the degree to which these categories relate, but in a roundabout way, improvements to self-esteem in other areas can cause both body image and beauty to improve. Perceptions of beauty are not purely physical and may be informed by interpersonal relations. Being perceived as beautiful can in turn improve body image.

The ways in which beauty and body image relate depends on the situation in question. Unrealistic desires for beauty can cause a person to develop a negative body image, but a person who has a negative body image can also feel that he or she is not beautiful. Beauty can actually decrease for people who suffer from negative body image because those people often do not take the time to feel beautiful, making them appear less outgoing and attractive. This relationship is highly individual, but feeling beautiful is often situational, meaning that body image can change depending on the context as well.

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