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Jun 13, 2004
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Body image and the myth of perfection

Edel Jarboe

It's unlikely we'll ever see a typical American woman on the cover of any woman's magazine. It is the media's job to sell the myth of perfection. How do you protect your self-esteem from the dangerous promise of perfection offered by the media? Here are ways to promote a healthy self-image within yourself.


Have you ever taken a good look at the cover of women's fitness magazines? The models are thin but they aren't "fit." They seem to be the direct opposite of what the magazine is about -- fitness. Shouldn't the cover of a woman's fitness magazine show a real woman with muscle tone and not just another "perfect" body? Unfortunately, we'll probably never see a typical American woman on the cover of any woman's magazine. Our society is very "outer oriented" and it is the media's job to sell the myth of perfection.

According to the American Psychological Association, 30-40% of Americans are somewhat unhappy with their appearance while another 45% may experience anxiety or depression due to dissatisfaction with their appearance. In other words, we are buying into the myth.

Dangerous promises

We are also punishing ourselves for not having perfect bodies. It's our body's fault that we aren't happy -- with our relationships, our jobs, and our lives. Therefore, we deny our bodies desserts, new clothes, and even love. Sadly, a lot of us hate our bodies (or certain parts) and this negative body image poisons the rest of our self-image. If you don't love all of you, how can you really be happy?

How do you protect your self-esteem from the dangerous promise of perfection offered by the media? Be honest with yourself and practice self-acceptance. Due to genetics and body types, all of us can't be thin but we can all be healthy. Instead of comparing yourself to a model on the cover of a magazine, look in the mirror to find your own standard of beauty. Ask yourself if you are feeding your body nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Ask yourself if you are at a healthy weight -for you.

In addition, self-acceptance means that you choose to feel good about yourself and to take care of yourself, regardless of society's standards. If you love yourself, love handles and all, your feelings about your body will not be influenced by media images.

<!-- Region Name: lowcarb 300x250 content --><!-- End region -->Make peace with your body

[*]Quit dissecting your body. "I like my thighs but I hate my fat stomach," for example harm your self-image. Appreciate how well your whole body works together to keep you going strong. Love the whole you.

[*]Don't punish your body by playing mind games with food. Food is not the enemy. Eat healthy but don't obsess. Allowing yourself to enjoy treats helps prevent bingeing and keeps you in control.

[*]Focus on who you are and not just on what your body looks like. Acknowledge the whole you and not just your body. What are your gifts, talents, and dreams? What have you done to uncover your hidden assets? How many lives have you touched? How is the world a better place because you are in it?

[*]Speak lovingly and positively to yourself. Fight negative self-talk by complimenting yourself. Look for the good and praise it. Remind yourself how wonderful you are.

[*]Take pleasure in just being alive. Be grateful for all you have and all that you are able to experience. Life is too short to be miserable over the external things that will fade away with time. Focus on living each moment from the inside out.

[*]Pamper your body. Treat yourself to a facial, a manicure, or a pedicure. Indulge in a long, hot bubble bath. Wear a wonderful fragrance.

[*]Take off your rose-colored glasses. Look at the other real bodies around you. The majority of us are not models. Appreciate the beauty of your own body and stop comparing yourself to glossy media images.

[*]Learn the basics of exercise and nutrition and set realistic goals. Your focus should always be on your health.

[*]Be the star of your own fitness program. Walk, run, bike, or do aerobics. Exercise makes you feel good about your body. Indulge your body in fun, feel-good activities often.

[*]Dress up your self-esteem by taking care of your appearance. Wear clothes that are flattering to your figure no matter what size you wear. Stop waiting until you lose a "little more weight" before feeling good about yourself.

[*]Ask for support and encouragement from family and friends when life is stressful and/or you are feeling down.

[*]Focus on living a whole and fulfilled life- both personally and professionally. Enjoy family, friends, and, most importantly, life. Do something everyday that brings you joy.

About the author: Edel Jarboe is the founder of Simpler Living, an online magazine helping women lead healthier, happier, and more balanced lives. There you will find timely articles on health, fitness, diet, personal growth, relationships, parenting, spirituality, work, money, time management, and more. It is a place for working women and mothers to come and get practical insight and inspiration to help keep their busy lives in balance. She also publishes a free weekly email newsletter, which features the advice column “Balancing Act," an inspirational quote, tips, and resources for living a simpler life.

Jun 17, 2004
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good words to live by.

Jun 22, 2004
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This is an awesome article Diane! I wish the mainstream women's magazines like Shape, Fit, & Fitness would use everyday women for their covers. Shape has a section where they feature a reader & a workout for a particular body part, which they should utilize for their covers. One magazine I'm finding myself intrigued by is Muscle & Fitness Hers b/c they feature cover models who are into the fitness scene & not some model.

I've also enjoyed reading is Body & Soul, which is very zen-like & spirit-based. Lots of emphasis on yoga, pilates & healthy living.

Nov 26, 2004
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I will have to say that every now and then Shape does give us a woman that does look like she eats ok ok once in a blue moon but it does happen! Fitness is bring out more recipes that are really good for you but again they forgot to feed their female on the cover. Why is that talking about self image that its only woman that have this problem? How is that we can never be thin enough , big enough chest, fit enough , beautiful enough and we all know that list can go on.

Have you notice in the world of Hollywood that in one rag a actress is way too thin and in another she isn't thin enough? That they put weight on for a role and everyone cheers that they would do such a thing, we get pregant and thats the end of the world. Self Image is one of the hardest things to work at because there is so many confliting messenges out there.

One female that is getting hurt the most in this rat race is our teenagers. Ever listen to a young lady go off on herself? I unfortunately had to listen to the now ex girlfriend of my son. That was one thing I could not help her with, and the self hate we all know is going to last for years. What can we as older ladies tell our teenagers about loving themselfs when we don't even love ourselfs? Its a problem that we all need to work on.

Not to pick on the guys but you know when you see a ugly woman with a handsome man doesn't that make you wonder how that happens? Thats something that needs to happen way more often cause no guy likes to be one up by another guy. I live with 3 I have seen it!!..


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