When it comes to our notion of the ‘self’, there can be several factors that may be at play. Self-concept is the set of beliefs one holds about oneself and it is also comprehensive of our idea of who we might become in the future. However, it is the collection of ideas we hold about our body, self-image, social and ideal self that are important. ‘Body image’ is our perception about our physical structure, appearance and attractiveness that is created taking our culture, socialization and the media’s influence into consideration. Our sense of who we are as people is the concept of ‘self-image’. The way we think our friends, family, colleagues and other acquaintances see us is the notion of ‘social-self’. Finally, our ideal-self’ is the way we would like ourselves to be.
Although all these concepts are important to understand, let us delve deeper into the idea of body image. Body image is often given a lot of importance in our society. It is a concept that is inclusive of all of the beliefs we hold about what is the ‘ideal’ body type, structure, height, weight, etc. It is formed as a result of our experiences in the real world, the media that we are exposed to and our intrinsic beliefs. Our experiences in the real world could include all that we have heard about ourselves throughout the years, our cultural attitudes and other experiences with people. The undeniable influence of media is of crucial importance to understand. Media often portrays images of actors and models that set unrealistic standards. The ads, music videos, magazine covers, films, books, social media influencers, etc end up shaping our idea of what is considered the ‘ideal’ beauty standard. All these factors influence our intrinsic beliefs. We form our own set of beliefs about what is considered physically and sexually appealing and end up working towards achieving those goals. There is nothing wrong in wanting to look attractive. However, it becomes dangerous when the goals that are set are unrealistic and unattainable due to genetic, biological or environmental factors. Culture plays an important role in shaping our ideas about various concepts, body image and physical attractiveness are no exceptions. What is considered physically attractive in one culture may not be considered so in another. However, it is seen that it is not just in isolated cultures, but in others too that several painful procedures are provided for individuals to look more attractive. Gender differences may exist in terms of the society’s emphasis on beauty.
They say, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’, which means that there is no one objective scale for measuring what is beautiful and what is not. It depends on the one who perceives. However, if the perceiver sees himself or herself as something less than ideal, then they are likely to have psychological issues such as low self-confidence and self-esteem. If one looks into the mirror only to see an overweight self, then they are likely to engage in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, etc. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by one’s obsession with body weight and eating habits leading to fear, forced starvation, eating too little, exercising too much, etc. Whereas, bulimia nervosa is also called as the binge-purge disorder wherein one overeats and then tries to get rid of those calories in unhealthy ways. There are a few other eating disorders that can be equally harmful, however, not all are associated with body image.
It is important to accept oneself. One can always strive towards achieving one’s goals related to one’s career, relationships, self, etc. However, it is imperative that one makes sure that these goals are not detrimental. Perfectionism is where one sets unrealistically high standards of achievement. Trying to reach an unrealistic ideal of beauty may be problematic, hence it is important to make one feel better about oneself by engaging in nourishment and self-care. We can avoid comparisons with others and harsh criticisms. Be confident about the way you look and feel. Take into consideration all those factors that make up who you are. It is imperative to focus on the positives and enhance them. In conclusion, it can be said that everyone is different and beautiful, so, be your own version of beautiful!