This past week a student from one of the high schools emailed the office looking for some input on a school project. She had some great questions that were centered on sexuality and body image. I answered the questions and thought it would be great to share on this platform. Stay tuned for part two as I have divided it into two posts.
1. How do sexual partners influence the way both genders perceive a positive or negative body image?
Body image is very individual and most of our thoughts around that come from our environment and media. A positive body image has to come from within. If we have a sexual partner who compliments our physical appearance, it may feel good in the moment but will be temporary. If someone has a negative body image, compliments from a sexual partner will not be enough to change that person’s mind; it has to come from within. If someone has a positive body image and their sexual partner is negative towards them, a healthy response would be to discuss the comments or re-evaluate the relationship. If someone has a negative body image and their partner is negative towards them, it will feed into what they already think.
2. How can body image influence the work and school environment?
If someone has a negative body image and is constantly preoccupied with how they look, it can make it difficult to concentrate and focus on other tasks. It can also interfere with social interactions at school and work because someone who has a negative body image may avoid others.
3. Do you think that we are born with body image issues or do you think that we grow up getting used to the idea of being imperfect? And why.
I do not think we are born with body image issues, but that they are developed because of our environment. I don’t think we grow up with the idea that we are going to be imperfect, rather through our environment and through media we are given messages that we are to be perfect. I think this is where many body image issues come from. Through media we are constantly bombarded with what the ‘ideal’ body should look like. Most woman we see on screen or in print are tall and thin with shapely breasts. This look is not achievable for most of the population. Not being able to achieve this look can lead girls and women to feel inferior and like they are failing. Likewise for men, the media often portray men as overly toned and muscular. This can lead to the same negative feelings in boys and men.
4. Why do we have to criticize our own bodies?
We don’t have to, we choose to. Many of us choose to criticize our bodies because unrealistic body standards have been set by the media and society. We consider ourselves to be failures or not good enough when we fail to look like how media and larger society says we should.