Mirror Mirror: How our Obsession with Body Image Destroys our Happiness

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That famous line echos from Wonderland to practically every home in the developed world. Every morning, we gaze in the mirror, wondering how fair we are compared to some imagined standard of fairness. The mirror we query is not the rectangle of glass suspended three feet in front of us. It is the inner reflection of our imagined visage, fallen well short of the media-inspired, imaginary standard.

No one’s mirror, not even those belonging to supermodels, tells them that they are the fairest of them all. What the mirror tells us is that our nose is too big. Our breasts are too small. And let’s not even talk about our waistlines. These daily conformations of our physical inadequacies lead us to unhealthy ends such as:

obsession with body image destroys our happiness

  • Low self esteem
  • Eating disorders
  • Risky behavior

Compounding the issue is the incessant, relentless, inescapable messaging from al forms of media. Every TV show, every movie, every magazine cover, every webpage is even more reinforcement to the mirror highlighting the many ways we fail to look our best, whatever that means. Here is a closer look at how body image issues rob us of our happiness:

Low Self Esteem

Ten being perfect, one being the worst possible specimen of a human being, how do you feel about yourself? Anything less than ten means you are consciously aware of being somewhat inadequate in some way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is. The lower the number, the lower your self esteem.

A woman who believes she is unattractive will be inclined to settle for a far worse match than she would if she had a greater sense of self worth. We often wonder why some women seem to bounce from one unsuccessful relationship to another. Combined with other factors, part of the answer is almost always low self esteem. And that is frequently related to body image.

Eating Disorders

Unfortunately, the popular image of eating disorder is a morbidly obese person with a sack of Big Macs, and a super sized Coke. But that is only a caricature of the real problem. Eating disorders are suffered by people of all shapes and sizes. These disorders can take the form of over eating or under eating, all in the name of conforming to the demands of a warped sense of body image.

It is a serious issue that will require more than willpower to resolve. Sufferers of eating disorders will need to seek out various forms of eating disorder counseling. According to TherapyTribe:

…Eating disorders are very serious conditions. In the early stages before they appear to be making much of a difference, the coping mechanisms and response patterns deepen and engrain themselves. Once an individual suffering from an eating disorder starts manifesting the deeper symptoms, those behaviors are typically engrained.

Risky Behavior

One of the counter-intuitive outcomes of body image induced, low self esteem is risky, hyper-sexual behavior. If you feel unworthy and unattractive, you may seek out any sexual validation you can get. Healthywomen.org puts it this way:

Women with low sexual self-esteem tend to have problems with sex and may be more likely to engage in higher risk sexual behaviors (such as unprotected sex with multiple partners).

Hyper-sexuality is not the only risky, validation seeking behavior in which people engage. Such a person might yield to all kinds of peer pressure for the sake of fitting in, and feeling validated by a group. Even if it is not a very desirable group, you might feel that the group’s desirability level is higher than yours would be, alone.

Declaring Perfection

Why are we so averse to rating ourselves a perfect 10? What is the standard of perfection that we are so convinced we don’t meet? Who says humans should have a certain size nose, breasts, or hips? Who declared that one eye can’t be slightly lower than the other? Who declared 20/20 the perfect acuity? What is the name of the fool who labeled you imperfect?

Try declaring one day a week your day of absolute perfection. Don’t try to fix yourself, or make yourself attractive to anyone. If you can declare one day of perfection, you will eventually be able to declare everyday a day of perfection.

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