Body Image

Way back in 1966, long before many of you were born or even thought of as an idea, your lives took a definite turn. I was a sophomore in college and Leslie Hornby was just a freshman or probably not even in college - in England. That was the year she was voted "British Woman of the Year" and named "The Face of 1966". But it actually wasn't her face that changed everything. It was her body. You can check her out online. Her nickname, of course, was/is Twiggy - because her body was like a twig. One of the, if not the, earliest supermodels, Twiggy maybe caused, or maybe evidenced what I believe has been the most destructive and craziest changes in what at least is in the western world, but pretty much is actually now world-wide - she was held out as a body ideal presented to girls and young women to emulate. Note the year. Some of you remember it. 1966.  Note the year. If it didn't directly influence you, it most certainly influenced your parents. This thin and basically androgynous looking girl became what girls and women were told they should look like. It became what parents thought their daughters should look like. Why did this happen? The answers are complicated and complex. But that it happened is very real and the impact he had was also so very real. I mean it, the impact was that your life most likely took a very definite turn. Even if you were not yet born or conceived of....here was the look .....

           

 
And it was different - oh so very different - than the body ideals that preceded her: Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, for example, were most certainly a very definite different image -- not androgynous - with an emphasis on sensuous, "buxom" and perhaps even Rubenesque.

American actress Jayne Mansfield (Vera Jayne Palmer) posing smiling wearing a wedding dress in the day of her wedding with the actor Mickey Hargitay. January 1958.    


And as you can see, the Twiggy prototype continues today with Versace supermodels such as :

    

Many of my colleagues and I regard this very fact - this abrupt shift in what girls were told they should look like - as a, and perhaps even as the, fundamental root of what became an epidemic of eating disorders in adolescent and young adult women. It has been absolutely crazy making for people to be told that in order to be beautiful, you have to have your body look different than it does - you have to starve your body into being thinner than your body wants to be.  What followed this image of what is beautiful was widespread food restricting and hyper-exercising to try to fit into the glass slipper - all in pursuit of looking THIN, THINNER, androgynously flat. And all the dieting and restricting often still fails to bring the thinness sought. And the hyper-restricting is then generally followed by outbreak binge eating to counterbalance the restricting. And voila- you have anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and a major pillar in obesity. 

Pursuit of a ridiculous and unhealthy and unattainable ideal...in search of a beauty that doesn't come...ending in eating disorders and self-loathing and depression...

And so we come now to you and body image.

And we come now to these specific issues:  accuracy of body image; and esteem of body image...

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To whit. Here is what you need to know about self-esteem theory and self-esteem measurement (please feel free to learn more than this- there is a lot of interesting stuff to learn, but the following is what you need to know for our discussion).   .

Self-image: How you see yourself

Self-ideal: How you think you should be

Positive self esteem: Results from a positive correlation between self-image and self-ideal. The closer how I see myself is to how or who I think I should be, the more positively I feel about myself.

Negative self-esteem: Results from a negative correlation between self-image and self-ideal. The further how I see myself is from how or who I think I should be, the more negatively I feel about myself.

Applied to body image: The correlation between my body image and my body ideal results in how I feel about my body. If I have a positive body image, it is because my body image and my body ideal are pretty close. If I have a negative body image, it is because my body image and my body ideal are pretty far apart.

I am betting that makes sense. Right? Kool.

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So then. So many of you have the experience of looking back to pictures of yourself as a child - at a time when you were told you were fat - and think now, "I wasn't fat." I really wasn't. Why did she say I was fat? Why did I think I was fat? Why did I think I was so hideously fat and ugly??? I am here to say that it is in part because of Twiggy. I am here to say that with our/your culture holding out an ideal (which becomes a self-ideal) that you are fat if you don't look like Twiggy...and if you have a body that is actually normal and which looks like your tribe is supposed to look...then you end up with a negative body image by virtue of the disparity between image and ideal.  It's Twiggy's fault.

Please think about this.

What is your body image?  How accurate is it?  I can tell you that I, for example, am still often startled when I see a picture of myself and notice the man has white hair. I have even begun noticing he doesn't actually have all that much hair at all...Body image is often not all that accurate - because of changes that are not kept up with -because of changes not wanted - because of it being ignored. How is yours? If you take a quick mental snap shot of how you see yourself and then weight the person in that snapshot, do they way what you do today? Does it matter? Why?

What is your body ideal? Is it what you think it should be? Why or why not? Is your body image ideal primarily visual? Do you think it should be? Why or why not?  These are the kinds of issues ahead for us.
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