Are We Image Obsessed?

When it comes to a health self image, it's best to make the mirror your friend.

by Michele Benza • Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

The mirror, it seems, has become our worst enemy rather than our best friend. Research indicates that at least 80 percent of women over 18 are unhappy with what they see. The main focus of dissatisfaction is the size and shape of their bodies, particularly their hips, waists and thighs. This has led me to think about this matter and air my views in this newsletter. It does not help that we cannot watch TV, pass billboards, or read magazines and newspapers without seeing slender, beautiful people. So much so, that we are subconsciously brainwashed into believing this is the norm and that we should look like these people too.

To make matters worse, the majority of celebrities, females in particular, almost always look perfect. Not a hair out of place, not wrinkle to be seen and breasts and bottoms fixed where they should be rather than heading south, as they tend to do in the rest of us. Does this create a negative or positive impact on us ordinary mortals? Are we able to differentiate the star from the individual? Are we envious?

It seems so, when you examine the statistics. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ (ASPS), 2011 Statistical Report, there were: 307,000 breast augmentations, 182,000 nose reshapings, and 182,000 liposuctions among other cosmetic procedures. In 2010, almost 219,000 plastic surgery procedures were performed on 13- to 19-year-olds. Teens rely on the knife to correct ill-shaped noses, protruding ears, too large or too small breasts, too big or too flat butts, and so on. Young Asian women go as far as having plastic surgery to westernize their appearance.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against plastic surgery — especially for adults who take the time to do in-depth research about their surgeon’s history and professionalism and the consequences of the proposed surgery. To what extent is all this related to our actual physical defects rather than the perception of our physical defects? We all have imperfections. But the issue is that we believe our defects stand out and everybody immediately notices them. Not true. The sad thing is that we are our harshest critics.

How much is the media to blame? In my opinion, a lot. It is the media that creates and continues to magnify and exploit the celebrity syndrome. Thanks to the media, we have become accustomed to extremely rigid and uniform standards of beauty.

These high standards are simply unrealistic and out of our reach. The truth of the matter is that the current median ideal of slenderness for women is achievable by less than 5 percent of the female population.

Most of us cannot afford to have a personal make-up artist, hair and fashion stylist, yoga teacher or Pilates instructor. If we could, we too would look fabulous every time we walked out the front door.

So what to do? Make the mirror your friend! Accept your body for what it is, zoom in on what is good and make the most of it.

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