Body Image and Objectification
Everyone has to navigate how they feel about their own body image. It’s just a part of being human.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? How do you feel?
Body image is the way we think and feel about our own bodies. It includes everything from what we see when looking at our reflection, to how we picture ourselves in our own mind. Height, weight, shape, features, how you move and how you feel in your body all count as part of what body image is. Think of it as how you feel on the inside about the way you look on the outside.
It’s ok to have a complicated relationship with your own body, especially as you start puberty. It can take a little while to get used to your body as it changes and fluctuates. Sadly, many people have negative feelings about their bodies, and may even experience body shame but there are so many things that you can do to help you feel more positive, and improve your self-confidence with a little bit of self-care.
Let’s take a deeper look about everything to do with body image.
What is the ideal body?
It can be easy to think that your body should look a certain way, whether that’s due to what you see in magazines, films, television shows or on social media. Different body ideals or standards exist for different groups, and different parts of the world. In some cultures, certain traits might be praised while others are shamed, but the opposite could be true on the other side of the world! It almost feels random, and a bit silly.
What is fashionable also evolves over time – one minute it seems like everyone has skinny eyebrows, then the next thing you know, big and bushy is back in! It all just proves that ideas around the “ideal body” are just a changing set of standards that are very subjective. It’s impossible to have the “ideal body” because what that means changes all the time.
If you can’t see successful role models who look like you, then you might feel different or weird. It’s very easy to compare yourself to others, whether that’s celebrities, people you see on the street, or your own friends. Remember that the perfect body exists – it’s the one you’re already living in. Every body is different, and every body is beautiful.
What do real bodies look like?
Real bodies come in all shapes and sizes – tall and short, slender and curvy.
Our bodies also change throughout our lives. Firstly during puberty, your boobs start to develop, hair starts to grow in places where it didn’t used to, and all sorts of other changes happen too. Bodies sweat, flow and they bleed in a natural repeating cycle – and there’s nothing shameful or secret about that. If you get pregnant at some point then your body changes again, as your body swells to accommodate your growing baby. Your body and particularly your vagina will also change, as your body recovers from giving birth.
Then as you head towards menopause, it’s completely natural to notice changes in the way you look, and the way you feel. We change on the outside because we change on the inside too, and it’s all part and parcel of growing up.
What is objectification?
Objectification is when a person is treated not like a person, and instead like an object or a thing. Objects exist for a purpose to be used, so the objectification of a body means instead of treating someone like a whole person with thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams, only viewing them in a very narrow way like a possession.
Objectification is a pretty big concept, so let’s look at a few examples of ways that people can be objectified that could lead to them feeling negatively about their bodies.
When you walk down the street, and someone shouts a comment about your body (known as ‘cat-calling’) they are treating you as something to be looked at, and not considering your feelings.
You might also notice objectification in films. Male superheroes might wear cool, practical costumes with gadgets, whereas female superheroes have more skin exposed, or even high heels on! Superheroes are incredible, but chasing after bad guys with high heels doesn’t seem like a very realistic first choice.
Sometimes, people may objectify your purpose in life because of your sex or gender. In society, for years there have been expectations placed on both genders to perform certain roles, whether that’s providing for a family by working or by looking after children at home. Just because a person has a certain body part (like a uterus) it doesn’t mean that having babies is the only thing they can do. Some people don’t want any children, while other people might really look forward to being a parent. Whatever you want to do with your life and your body is completely up to you, and you shouldn’t pay attention to judgement or expectation from other people.
If someone makes a comment about your body, or says you should do something because of your gender, your race, or anything else for that matter, it might feel like you’re being put into a tight box that you can’t escape from. It doesn’t feel good, and can make you lose confidence in yourself and your abilities. It might even cause you to feel negatively about yourself and your body, which is sometimes known as body shame.
Dealing with body shame
It’s ok to sometimes feel negatively about your own body – loving yourself all of the time isn’t always possible! Everyone has off days, and there are so many different factors that can affect how you feel. That being said, there are things you can do to help yourself on your journey away from body shame and towards self-love.
Prioritize what makes you feel good
When do you feel most confident? Maybe it’s when you’re running, painting, singing or doing something else that you love. Maybe it’s hanging out with your friends, walking in nature, or taking some time to be mindful. Even with a busy lifestyle, try to look after your body, and your mind at the same time.
Follow a wide range of body types on social media
The brilliant thing about social media is that you are able to curate your own space. You have the power to mute and block things that don’t make you feel good, and instead follow people and brands that represent you! Finding cool people who look like you, and following a diverse range of individuals can keep your feed a body-positive place.
Consume positive content
If something makes you feel bad, then don’t engage with it. Instead, find a new TV show that includes people like you who are flawed and real, doing cool stuff. Listen to music that you can dance around to and feel amazing while singing the lyrics out loud. Think about the books you read and the podcasts you listen to, and choose ones that lift your spirit.
Treat yourself like your best friend
Think about the way you speak to your best friend or closest family member – you treat them with kindness, you praise them, you support them and lift them up.
Try treating yourself like you would treat someone you love – you’d never be negative about the way they look.
Body image and objectification is such a huge topic, and we’ve barely scratched the surface! Just remember the way you feel about your body is like any other relationship – sometimes it needs work, but it’s worth it. If you’d like to learn more, read our articles on how your body changes during puberty and what’s going on in your brain during puberty.
Saba® makes you feel #CómodaContigo.Medical disclaimer
The medical information in this article is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your doctor for guidance about a specific medical condition.