Body Image and The Media: Examining its Effects on our Own Perceptions

By Brie Shelly

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I recently participated in raising student awareness of the different types of eating disorders and informed them about biological, psychological, and environmental factors that influence eating disorders.  The most memorable environmental factor discussed was how the media promote unrealistic standards of beauty and physical appearance. With this in mind, I thought a quick reminder of how the media change our body image perceptions might be helpful.

Abundant evidence exists revealing that magazines, television ads, and social media sites, like Facebook, influence how an individual perceives his or her body. Body image is a multidimensional concept that includes thoughts, feelings, and attitudes related to one’s own body. Repeated exposure to advertisements that endorse images of slim and perfect bodies may lead to unrealistic body image ideals and individuals may even start to consider these false ideals as normal. Magazines often publish stories meant to promote eating disorder awareness while simultaneously publishing the images that induce social comparison and result in body dissatisfaction.  These mixed messages can be confusing for audiences to process.

During the presentation, a popular video from The Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty was shown.  The video does an excellent job of reminding us of just how much of what we see in the media is not reality. I encourage others to watch the video and to process your feelings afterwards with friends, family members, or your support network. I think the video can be a great conversation starter for a question that I proposed to students at the end of the presentation, namely, “What would you do, say, or wear if you forgot about body image for a day?”

I encourage you to watch the video, answer the question for yourself, and remember the next time you read a magazine, watch TV, or go online that the images you see are rarely reality.

About The Brie Shelly

Brie Shelly, MS, CRC, received her Masters in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. While studying psychology, exercise and sports science ...

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