What Factors Affect Body Image in Women?

Victoria Blackburn

Body image in women is the mental image that women have of themselves, as well as how they feel about their body and any judgments they make. Many women battle with body image issues, which can have negative effects on their physical and mental health. Issues with body image can start in young girls and progress over the course of their lives. Young women seem to struggle the most with their body image and this is due to several factors.

Friends may affect body image in women.
Friends may affect body image in women.

Having a negative body image can mean that the woman dislikes her entire body or that specific parts of it make her unhappy. These negative feelings can relate to things like weight and thoughts of not being thin enough, to the size of specific features, such as breasts and facial features. Many negative feelings about body image in women can be traced to feelings of inadequacy. Compared to a perceived perfect or idealized body, the woman feels that her own body does not measure up.

The media is often considered detrimental to the body image of women.
The media is often considered detrimental to the body image of women.

The media and popular culture play huge roles in what women think is the perfect body and also in how they perceive themselves. Television, movies and magazines are full of pictures of thin, young women. These models and celebrities are seen to be the ideal for beauty, which is unrealistic for most people to achieve. Looking like the women seen in the media is not attainable for most women, and this leads to negative feelings about their own body. To feel desirable and confident, many women think that they have to look like models and celebrities.

Teen girls are very susceptible to the unrealistic standards set by thin models.
Teen girls are very susceptible to the unrealistic standards set by thin models.

Body image in women can also be affected by the examples set by their parents, both mother and father. If one or both parents are preoccupied with weight and body image, then the woman learns to focus on this from a young age. This can lead to unhealthy diet and other practices due to the constant worry about having the perfect body. In addition, participating in certain sports and activities, such as gymnastics and modeling, can cause a negative body image in women due to the focus on being very thin or of a very low weight to be able to succeed in these activities.

Having a negative body image can mean disliking one's entire body or just a part of his or her body.
Having a negative body image can mean disliking one's entire body or just a part of his or her body.

Changes in body size and shape can also have a detrimental effect on body image in women. During puberty, women may not understand the changes happening within their body. Some girls and teens are embarrassed about how their bodies are developing and try to hide the fact from others. At the same time, other girls may feel that they are not maturing at the same rate as their friends and want to mature quicker. Both of these situations can lead to negative body image in women.

Women often feel more compelled to stay fit in order to be attractive.
Women often feel more compelled to stay fit in order to be attractive.
Women with body image issues may become too thin and have an unhealthy weight.
Women with body image issues may become too thin and have an unhealthy weight.

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Discussion Comments

Wisedly33

A woman's family can also really affect her body image, especially if she's the only one like herself (chubby or thin) in the family. A chubby family can make a thin girl miserable because they sometimes, somehow get the impression she's thin and stays thin just to spite them. It's really weird.

A chubby girl in a thin family gets it, too. They are frequently on her case all the time about eating right and getting exercise, even if she is active on both counts. If she's not losing weight and doesn't look like the rest of them, obviously something is very wrong. So, yeah, the media doesn't help, God knows, but families can be just as harsh.

Scrbblchick

There's no doubt the media plays a huge role in perpetuating negative body image, especially among women, and because fat people are ridiculed without consequences, it has become the new moral failing to be overweight. Because of the ideas people get from the media, they sometimes start to think that overweight people have no feelings and in some cases, very little right to exist.

I saw on a forum about body image where several people said things like, "Either stop eating so much or just kill yourself. You're a drain on society's resources." These are human beings they were speaking to.

As a chubby chick myself, I'm just too downright ornery to cave in to this kind of thing. I'll stay alive and be a thorn in their self-righteous sides. But a lot of people wouldn't do this if they didn't see the media glorifying skinny women and vilifying big women.

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