Body Image Influences Self-Esteem

Posted on October 25th, 2012 by Maggie Castrey

Radiant Health

Many women tell me they grew up with messages that greatly affected their self-images. These messages continue to influence how they see their reflections in the mirror today, and it often does not match up with the way they think it should look.

They think they are too fat, too short, too tall, not pretty, or not like other women. We think this way because the images we see on the newsstand or at the grocery checkout counter offer a distorted view of reality. The covers either feature young girls smiling because they are young and beautiful or hideously unflattering pictures of stars hiding from the camera because they look fat and ugly. There are never any pictures of ordinary human females women who look like us and feel fine.

Self-esteem is how a person feels about the inside and the outside. Women who have poor self-esteem have heard messages while growing up that said, “You do not measure up to all the other pretty, thin, smart girls.” These messages can have lifelong consequences. Women in our focus groups told us they heard many of these messages and also felt their mothers had a hard time with age and really worried about losing their looks.

How to Avoid Answering a Rude Question

Although coping with society’s external views of older women can be annoying, women have devised a number of coping strategies. Susan tells her age proudly, knowing that she looks healthy and strong. Marla shrugs it off, ignores it, then vents by laughing and complaining with her friends. Kathy refuses to tell anyone her age because she refuses to be categorized that way. Carol answers questions about her age by replying, “That is only relevant if we’re talking about age discrimination.” How old are you? If it bothers you to be asked, go ahead and devise a cute remark to deflect what is, after all, a rude question: “Old enough to know better; Young enough to want more; Oh, I’m about your age; What’s it to you? Why do you ask?”

That way you can leave your age to the imagination of the perceiver.

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly, author of “Timeless Women Speak, Feeling Youthful at Any Age.”

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