I think about what I look like pretty frequently. I am one of millions of people concerned with body image, or the way you generally feel about your appearance.
While I'm always trying to modify how often I indulge in this kind of thinking, it can be incredibly difficult, as we are up against countless triggers that can contribute to a negative body image on a daily basis.
Men and women of all ages are constantly encountering messages that dictate how we should look, whether those messages are visual, verbal or both.
To combat the feelings that can accompany this ongoing bombardment, it's important to understand how many times a day we're subliminally reminded to evaluate ourselves in an entirely superficial way.
So, what aspects of our lives are telling us how to feel about how we look?
We (nearly) all use social media. The purpose of which is technically to share our lives and stay up to date with other people, but the actual purpose of which is to stalk our peers and compare our existences to others.
Everyone wants the best version of his or her life to appear on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., so that's almost all we ever see of each other.
Your college friend's hair looks great in her profile picture because the photo was probably meticulously selected.
Your ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend who has a great body isn't going to post photos of himself on days when he's just eaten an entire pizza. Have you ever demanded that a friend remove a tagged photo of you because you hated the way you looked?
The impact that music has on body image is terrifying, because it's easy to miss. If you're someone who listens to a top 40-style radio station, how often are you hearing about how desirable a specific body type is?
How many of your favorite songs include descriptions of how the subject looks rather than how he or she behaves? As ridiculous as it seems, messages like "Baby Got Back" and "Bootylicious" have probably made you feel that you're not good enough, even on a subtle level.
I don't know a single person who doesn't contribute to body image ideals in this way. The way we try to make each other feel good can, without us noticing, be exclusively superficial.
"You look so skinny!"; "I wish I had your eyes/nose/legs/boobs"; "Your hair is so curly/straight/think/wavy/shiny. I'm so jealous," are just a few examples.
The more you compliment someone this way, the more stock they put in what you're complimenting. We should spend more time calling each other smart, talented, graceful and funny.
Advertising has been affecting, and usually ruining, the body image of the common man and woman pretty much since its inception.
By now we all know about the flagrant use of Photoshop in almost every professional image we see, right? But how many of us are still buying magazines and envying the beautiful people gracing the covers?
How many times have you bought something (makeup, clothing, workout equipment, diet pills, lotions, cleansers, nail polish, hair dye) that is designed to change or "improve" your appearance and your appearance only?
These factors, along with the ever-present influence of movies and television, contribute to the way we feel about ourselves, and rarely do so in a positive way.
Sometimes it seems inescapable, and it probably is. I can't imagine that the world will stop glorifying specific ideas of what constitutes beauty anytime soon. But maybe one day we will collectively agree to quit forcing unrealistic expectations on each other and on ourselves.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It