Concept Analysis on Body Image

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Body Image, Self Concept and Self Esteem Summary: Sports and media advertising effect people’s perception of body image and present an unrealistic view of how one’s body should look. This can cause body image and self-esteem issues for some people, causing them to attempt unhealthy diets. Body Image, Self Concept and Self Esteem Awareness of body image and self esteem issues has become a prevalent issue in today’s culture.

Doctors at the forefront of teen physiological development and research are becoming increasingly worried that teenagers are falling victim to unrealistic trends in perceived body image (Gutgesell and Payne, 2004) Today’s media and advertisers play a big role in the development of our teenagers self confidence and self esteem. Particularly in relation to how they perceive body image and the term `beautiful. “

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Advertisers often emphasize sexuality and the importance of physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products; researchers are concerned that this places undue pressure on women and men to focus on their appearance” (Dr. Harrison Pope, 1997). A survey in 1996 stated that the media were making woman fear being unattractive or old and furthermore that advertisements were adversely impacting on woman’s body image (Saatchi and Saatchi 1996). The impact of unrealistic body image is not just confined to women. Men and more specificity teenage boys are adversely affected by self confidence issues as well. The average male/female today views 400 to 600 advertisements per day, by the time they are 17 years old, they have received over 250,000 commercial messages through the media.

Only 9% of commercials have a direct statement about body image and beauty, many more implicitly emphasise the importance of body image and beautiful (Paul Hamburg 1999). Therefore if body image and self esteem are such considerable problems then what are they” Body image involves our perception, imagination, emotions, and physical sensations of and about our bodies. A body image can be ever changing and is not created based on fact but influenced by self esteem, environment, physical experiences and physiological experiences.

It is not inborn but learnt. The learning comes from family and peers but only reinforces what is learnt and experienced culturally. Dissatisfaction with their bodies causes many women and girls to strive for the thin body image. Research suggests that the majority of girls aged 11 to 17 want to be thinner, and girls as young as five have expressed fears of getting fat. 80% of 10 year-old girls have dieted, and at any one time, 50% of women are dieting (Judy Lightstone 2001).

Other researchers suggest depicting thin models may lead girls into unhealthy weight-control habits, because the ideal image they seek to emulate is unattainable for many and unhealthy for most. Furthermore over 27% of young women who are under weight believe that they are at an acceptable weight (National Health Survey, Australia 1995). These distortions in ones perceptions of the perfect body image or the thin `ideal’ can lead to diseases such as bulimia and anorexia. As boys and girls strive to reach what they perceive to be the ideal weight they develop a compulsive fear of being fat.

Approximately 1 In 500 children usually between 14 – 18 years old, develop anorexia or bulimia (L. Berk 2000). Helga Dittmar, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, states that, “Body dissatisfaction can produce extreme body-shaping behaviors, such as eating disorders. Women and girls can’t help being exposed to ultra-thin models in advertising whose body size is unrealistic and unhealthy. There is good evidence already that exposure to these unhealthy models leads a large proportion of women to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies. This learning is entrenched in our everyday lives as we are bombarded by advertisements, media and television depicting slender silhouettes of feminine bodies or bronzed muscular toned bodies of men, wearing next to nothing holding up merchandise to draw the attention of the some what bewildered buyer. Sex sells and it’s a fact of life that the `beautiful people’ are idolised and the less fortunate are left to travel the never ending treadmill of competing to achieve a goal that they will never reach, hence opening the flood gate of social, emotional and philological issues.

Growing up, children are subjected to masses of advertisements, film and literature that promote the body image as `slim and beautiful’. Unfortunately for us this is an unrealistic image to be idolising. Most teen magazines promote only one type of beauty: physical (Elizabeth Day 2005). As children reach their teens, the message is personified and becomes prevalent. Studies show that sex, sexuality and body image are discouraged and kept secretive around the home. Dating, love and relationships become a big part of a teen’s life so naturally teenagers get he information they want from friends. A high percentage of teenagers receive information on sex, sexuality and body image from the media (L. E. Berk, Sexuality 2000). Everywhere you turn, the media and advertisers smother us with images of a preconceived `perfect body’, whether it is the slender figure of the ideal woman or the tall chiseled buff look of the perfect guy. Advertisers play on our inherent nature to be self criticising if given the appropriate stimulus. We are blinded by vanity and an over whelming desire to be one of the beautiful people.

Some researchers believe that advertisers purposely normalise unrealistically thin bodies, in order to create an unattainable desire that can drive product consumption. In a recent “Who” magazine article, Jessica Simpson stated that the pictures from her last photo shot were air brushed and that she does not actually look that good. How are we supposed to compete with that? “The media perpetuates a market for frustration and disappointment, its customers will never disappear,” writes Paul Hamburg, an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Considering that the diet industry alone generates $33 billion in revenue, it appears as though its `fear of fat’ tactic works (Schneider, K. 1996). For teens this unhealthy influence is only compounded by the people around them. Comments from friends, parents, boyfriends and girlfriends can have a dramatically affect on ones self acceptance and confidence. This is where a body dysmorphic disorder commonly occurs, not just in teens but people of all ages, both men and woman. Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder.

It is easiest described as a persons negative image of their body and their goal (almost always unrealistic and unhealthy) to reach a certain weight or body shape (psychologist, Steven Pittman 1995). These days children are strongly encouraged to play and follow sport. One of the fastest growing sports in popularity in the classroom, social or club level is volleyball or more specifically its counterpart, beach volleyball. Unfortunately what was a fun recreational and competitive sport is fast becoming an advertising tool and further more continuing the trend to promote unrealistic body image (Borrie J. 2000).

Late in 2000 the governing body for beach volleyball changed the uniform rules so that female players at a professional level now must wear two piece bikinis with low cut tops at the front and back, and bottoms no wider than 6cm at the sides (Beach volleyball rules, 2003 www. fivb. com). Besides the fact that this kind of image only reinforces the body beautiful message, it can be argued that even the players with athletic builds and tanned skin feel uncomfortable in the new uniformsIt is easy to see that they are self conscious simply by watching how many times a female beach volleyball player adjusts her uniform during a match (Kirk D. 002 Human Kinetics). However despite these concerns of negative body image and distasteful message the heads of volleyball stand by their actions. The former CEO of Volleyball Australia was quoted as saying, “If we can show off these bodies at the same time as presenting our sport then we are going to do that” (Borrie J. 2000). It would appear as though the male players are safe from the revealing uniform changes, or are they? Olympic gold medallist Natalie Cook wants the male competitors to go topless for the next Olympics in an effort to increase the popularity of the men’s competition.

Cook suggested that the men show more flesh on court when the Games come round to Beijing in 2008 (http://smh. com. au/olympics/articles/2004/08/31/1093852188726. htm ). If the organisers and players are generally happy and accepting of the use of sex to promote their sport regardless of how it effects the public views on body image and self esteem, then where do the sponsors stand on the issue of acceptable body image” Unfortunately no advertiser in their right mind will openly come out and state that they would like to change how things are done as their goal is to sell their clients products.

Perhaps it is because they are too busy working on how to fit there company logo on the miniscule space of the female beach volley ball players uniform, or maybe there conjuring up new ways to make men and woman feel guilty and dissatisfied with there bodies. (Borrie J. 2000 Sexploitation). The cold truth is that the sponsors will never change the way they advertise and market the `perfect’ body and maybe one day with the support of the public the female beach volleyball players can change the rules so they have respectable uniforms.

Until then what can we do to confront and solve the problem of body dissatisfaction, body dysmorphic disorder and negative self image? As individuals, one cannot fight what large companies chose to do and how sporting bodies manipulate the rules of their spot but what we as a community can do is educate (L. E. berk 2000). Educate children from an early age to love the body they’re in. Educate families to get involved in their children’s social development. The message must get through and must be clear, thin is not always beautiful and hat every body and every person is different (F. Philip Rice 1998). Through community initiatives and campaigning against sexual exploitation and unrealistic body image we can combat not just the message sent by the Beach Volleyball Association but the corporate world as well. Through initiatives like these and educating children on proper health and body image we can move on to being a healthier and happier Australia.


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