Media Influence on Body Image

Body image concerns impact many college students. Body image refers to how you see yourself when you look in a mirror or picture yourself in your mind. It can include beliefs you have about your appearance, feelings about your body, and how you feel in your body. Some students have a negative body image, which may include feeling ashamed, self-conscious, or anxious about your body, or feeling awkward or uncomfortable in your body. Some students have a positive body image, which includes feeling proud and accepting of your unique body, appreciation of your natural body, and feeling comfortable and confident in your body. Some of us may go back and forth between these two types of images, feeling positive about our bodies sometimes and negative other times.

Increasingly, media, including social media, has influenced how college students think about what an ideal body should look like. Among young women, media messages are largely aimed at promoting the “thin ideal.” In fact, the average American sees more than 5,260 “attractiveness messages” each year. Among young men, there is mass media pressure to have a muscular body type. These messages from the media can have a huge influence on how you see and feel about your body. The problem is, is that these messages often promote unrealistic body and health expectations. The body type promoted in many advertisements is only achievable by 5% of the population, meaning it is unrealistic for 95% of us (that is, almost everyone).

Luckily, there are many campaigns and organizations that are combatting these unhelpful messages and promoting health and wellness that go beyond just what your body looks like. The Body Positive is one such organization that aims to end the harmful consequences of negative body image and promote health as the interconnection of the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of a person’s life. They focus on understanding your own body image, listening to your body’s wisdom, and cultivating love for yourself. To learn more about The Body Positive, check out their website here.

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