selfies with three women

The one thing more Influential on our Body Image than Instagram

We are surrounded by images of bodies every day, and we know that these images can impact and distort the feelings we have about our bodies and create feelings of unworthiness and dissatisfaction. But what about the messages we received from the ones closest to use, how do they show up?

On a daily basis, we are seeing up to 600 advertisements a day and 1000’s of images of bodies on social media. This forms in our mind a picture and messages about how we should look, what we should wear and what our bodies should look like.

These images are actually a representation of only 5% of the population with the average woman being a size 14 – 16. They promote feelings of dissatisfaction and unworthiness, mainly so you will go and buy whatever product that is being promoted.

But for some people these images don’t really seem to stick, they float by and slide off like Teflon, and for others, every image of a woman exposed is triggering.

It may have something to do with what they were exposed to as a young child, the messages from family, friends and their world around them.

The messages we receive when we are children are what shape our world view. They help us form part of our identity and our beliefs about the world, ourselves and others. The messages are mostly part of our subconscious thinking and our brain likes to make things easy, so we look for information that supports our world view, rather than challenges it.

This is great because we don’t have to process 1000’s of thoughts every day, however it can create somewhat of a mental filter where we look for information that supports our belief and dismiss information that challenges it. These beliefs are so subliminal it can be hard to unpack out where they are coming from.

Take a moment to stop and reflect what are the messages that we have about our bodies and where have they come from.

What is the first memory you can think of that was a message about your masculinity or femininity?

Was it a comment about being a pretty little girl? Or a big and tough boy?

Were you told that is a girl’s toy, or that only boys wear blue?

This sort of comment could have come from anyone, a family member, an uncle, grandma, grandpa, parents, sister, and teachers. When we are growing our own identity these role models create a lot of influence in our lives. We take their opinions seriously and take them on as our own.

What did you hear being spoken about bodies, your own and others?

Did family members shame or judge others fain gaining?

Was weight loss celebrate and commented on?

Were people commented on based on their hair colour, skin colour, height?

Do you remember messages about what a real woman should look like:

Not too big, not too curvy, not too small?

And what about comments about real men:

Tall dark and handsome, strong and fit, sporty, not too fat and not too skinny?

When I reflect back to my childhood these are some of the comments, conversations and messages that I can remember. These are some of the messages I remember.

It’s ok to be big as long as someone else is bigger than you

Fat people = lazy =lazy = bad

Girls should look after themselves, do their hair and make themselves look nice

Women should keep small, nothing worse than a large angry woman.

Men should be men and do manly things (whatever that means)

Maybe your mom told you when you’re a kid that you’re “always going to be this short and fat, it’s your genes”

Or your dad told you when you’re a kid that you aren’t going to be popular if you didn’t “grow your hair and wear makeup”

And when you received those messages from the ones you care about around you how did you fit in the picture? Did it make you wish you were someone else in a different body? Or did it make you feel tall and proud because you fit just nicely into that ideal?

Now I wonder just how often does this message show up for you in your life now?

Is this part of the way you see the world?

Is it something that pops up for you now and then, makes you feel shame, hollow inside or not enough. These are the sort of messages that we get told, that we internalize, that live in our unconscious mind.

As adults, we can fall into the old traps of reliving the feelings we felt comfortable in as a child. Forever dieting and trying to be smaller because we were told women should keep themselves petite to be appealing for the opposite sex.

Feeling guilty when we don’t work out because real men are strong, capable and handy.

These messages are insidious. It is not until you can see them and recognize the impact they have on lives that we can let the possibility for change come in. We can recognize these messages as not necessarily our own, but ones we have inherited. It is then that we allow space for a new view, a new way of thinking, a new filter to our world view.

Ask yourself why these statements could be TRUE rather than finding evidence to dismiss them.

What if you could be irresistible to the opposite sex just as you are?

What if you could be a strong and capable man just as you are?

What if you could be perfectly happy within in yourself, but also capable of change and growth into something more?

Is there a possibility you could see things differently, a possibility for seeing the world in a different light?

The first step you can take is just being aware of those messages. The inner dialogue that runs inside your head and makes you feel small or worthless.

Recognize how they are holding you back.

Start being able to challenge these thoughts with your own messages, your own feelings and thoughts about your body, about your self and about others.

Ask yourself what do YOU think, and when YOU answer listen in carefully.