Body image

Body image

Recently I was asked to present a workshop on body image. Not a new topic for many of us but continuing to be an important one. So as I was sitting having coffee I picked up a magazine to remind myself of what we are daily surrounded by. I think I had forgotten the extent of the overload which we are exposed to. The cover had the following headline.

Then page after page the word ‘body’ popped up in various other headlines.

You get the idea.

All this is apart from the endless references to looking good, the latest diets for that BODY, and various things you can colour it with or drape it with to make it look better.

Now I am a fan of being healthy and I am a big fan of exercise. And yet this is out the other side of reasonable. I think it works something like this. There are strong connections between the following dynamics, each linking to and supporting the other.
Body Image
Further consumerism

Body image
We are encouraged (excessively and beyond anything reasonable) to believe that how we look is important.
In this process, people become objects and are regarded as such. And we can both regard ourselves as well as others as objects. Females in particular have been subjected to this.
Objects become ‘things’ to be obtained in some way. ‘A good body’ is considered a great ‘thing’ to have and can be had through diets and gym membership. Bodies can actually be won it seems.

And of course we need a complete wardrobe of bodies…one for each season.


And we can even commodify those things that we need for a ‘happy life.’ Commodities such as a sense of worth, status, feeling good, looking good, being ‘sought after’, are all available at a price.

We are encouraged to believe that we can buy happiness, through the new diet, the latest clothes, the attractive accessories.


Continued consuming depends on people being dissatisfied with what they have and who they are. Our bodies are never good enough (there is always a new diet), what we have, including what we wear on our bodies, needs constantly to be updated to make sure that we attract others and to make sure we continue to feel good about ourselves…albeit temporarily. Comparison with others, always to our detriment, is encouraged.




Have a look at the stats. In Australia it seems:

‘…only 16% of young women are happy with their body weight.’

Interestingly the % for young men is not quoted. And:

‘…45% of women and 23% of men in the healthy weight range think they are overweight. At least 20% of women who are underweight think that they are overweight and are dieting to lose weight.’

And on and on the cycle continues.

Are males immune?

There is increasing evidence that the body image dilemma, traditionally the select preserve of females, is making considerable inroads into maleness.

Does any of this matter?

– Take a wee look at the amount of violence that still exists between males and females.
– Take a wee look at the role women still find themselves in.
– Take a wee look at the research that suggests that Western English-speaking countries in particular are experiencing unprecedented levels of depression.

And just so you know, every single picture you see here came from the one magazine. You don’t have to look far for evidence of the overload.

What do we do?


With a focus on:
– Developing a strong sense of internal rather than external motivation
– Focussing on ourselves and others as worthwhile beautiful human beings rather than items which might attract others

And with a mindful remembering of all that the recent research is telling us about what helps all of us grow strong:

– A strong sense of self
– A strong sense of purpose and belonging
– Good strong relationships with others
– A sense of being in charge of yourself and your life.

These things won’t inoculate us from the impact of consumerism…but they sure as heck won’t hurt us either. And we do know that these elements do help people grow strong and go well in life.

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