An individual’s body image is their opinion of their physical appearance. During the awkward teenage years, many teenagers suffer from a poor body image. You can help your teen improve his or her thinking by learning about the difference between an ideal body image and a healthy body image.
What Your Teen Should See in the Mirror
Your teenager should be satisfied with his/her own body. The human body comes in many shapes and sizes, and no one body type should be idealized over another. Teenagers should look in the mirror and see a healthy, happy person who can achieve mental and physical success.
Wearing a swimsuit or participating in physical education should be comfortable for your teenager. The physical characteristics that define a person, such as a bump on the nose or a birthmark, should be embraced as part of their uniqueness, not viewed as imperfections.
Ideal Body Image vs Healthy Body Image
A teenager’s ideal body image is what they think their body should look like, which isn’t realistic or attainable. Teenagers’ perceptions of the ideal shape may not have anything to do with their size or shape. The issue of body image begins long before teenage years, according to recent surveys.
42 percent of girls in first through third grades wanted to be skinnier, according to a National Eating Disorders Association study. Having an ideal body image can be drastically different from having a healthy body image, where teens are satisfied with their appearance and feel comfortable with it. It is typically self-esteem, media, and peers that cause a gap between having a healthy body image and having an ideal body image.
Self-Esteem Influences Body Image
Body image is heavily influenced by self-esteem, the mental perception of oneself. Teenagers who value themselves for traits other than physical ones, such as intellectual or social capabilities, will likely have a higher opinion of their bodies.
Low self-esteem teens, however, will find more flaws in their bodies. A teenager’s self-esteem can also be negatively affected by focusing heavily on the things they don’t like about themselves.
Peers and Body Image
Teenagers’ body image is also affected by peer pressure. It is common for kids to taunt and be cruel to one another, especially in the locker room. It is common for teenagers to avoid gym class because they do not want to change in front of other people.
It is common for a girl who develops breasts more quickly than her peers of the same age to experience this. The problem can also affect boys who aren’t developing as fast as their peers. Negative comments can set your teen up for years of hiding under baggy clothes or, worse, eating disorders.
How Media Affects Body Image
Teenagers are bombarded with media images every day. On television, celebrities are idealized and portrayed as perfect. Teenagers are unaware of Hollywood editing’s magic and how easily flaws and imperfections can be removed.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes to gain muscle mass and improve their physical agility may not be revealed (until they are caught). After watching the Kids’ Choice Awards, your teenager may wonder why she doesn’t look like Demi Lovato. Prior to her five-minute appearance on camera, Demi had a stylist, make-up artist, and hairdresser help her prepare for three hours.
Dangers of Focusing on Body Image
It is not uncommon for teens to spend a lot of time focusing on their ideal body image. This may be due to self-esteem issues or because they do not fit into what their peers or media consider ideal. Overfocusing on ideal body weight or striving for an unattainable or unhealthy body weight can lead to:
- Dieting to extremes
- An eating disorder
- The depression
- Having anxiety
- Self-esteem is low
- Exercise in excess
- Consumption of drugs (diet pills, laxatives, etc.)
- Changes in mood
Tips for Developing Healthy Body Image
Regardless of whether you are a boy, girl, or parent, there are several things you can do to improve your body image.
Although body image issues are typically associated with girls, this is not the case. According to a study, 40 percent of boys exercise regularly in order to bulk up.
- Make use of your nonphysical strengths, such as your intellect or artistic abilities.
- It’s more important to focus on what your body can do rather than how it looks. You might try kicking a soccer ball or throwing a baseball to see how good you are at it. Take a look at your ability to climb a tree or use a bow.
- Make your day active. Don’t let activities like running or playing ball with friends become obsessions. You can improve your body image by getting active, which can improve your self-esteem.
- Make sure you’re getting the right fuel. Rather than worrying about what your body looks like, focus on staying healthy by eating the right foods and getting enough sleep. Feeling good about yourself and your skin is easier when you feel good about yourself.
It is no secret that girls struggle with their ideal body image. According to research, 30 percent of girls suffer from body image problems that become obsessive. Feeling comfortable in your own skin requires combating these feelings.
- Dress in clothing that makes you feel beautiful and confident about your body. Wear what you feel good in, not what your friends wear.
- Make eating a priority. Make healthy choices for your body rather than worrying about how much you should eat.
- Praise should be given where it is due. It’s important to be positive about your accomplishments, whether you are praising your friends or yourself.
- You should find friends who complement and support you. Being surrounded by positivity can increase your positivity and make you feel better.
- Take part in fun and enjoyable activities. Find activities that you can do with friends or that make you feel good about yourself instead of just exercising to lose weight. You feel better about yourself after exercising because endorphins are released.
It’s your job as a parent to promote positivity. Not only with your actions, but also within your family. In order to promote a positive body image, you can do several things.
- Discuss how media messages and body images might be distorted. Show how many stars use Photoshop or filters to achieve their look.
- Talk openly with your teens about their body feelings and encourage questions.
- Instead of focusing on how your child looks, focus on who they are and what they are like.
- As a parent, check your own perceptions about yourself and your physical appearance as these can have a big impact on your teen.
- Focus on health rather than appearance with teens and family members. Instead of referring to a body as thin or fat, talk about how it looks healthy or fit. You might point out how radiant their skin is or how lean their body is becoming.
- Encourage others not to use negative language or nicknames that may hurt your child’s self-esteem or body image.
Putting It Into Perspective
Celebrities are increasingly admitting to how much work and makeup goes into their media images. A piece by US Weekly called Stars Without Makeup showed celebrities au natural and all done up. You can help your teenager see that celebrities are normal and don’t look that different from real people without all the hype and styling.
Watching television with your teenager and discussing what he or she sees can help you gauge their self-esteem. If your teen has any misconceptions about body image, you can discuss them with her, opening up a dialogue that should continue throughout her teen years.
There Is No Perfect Body for a Teen
Being positive and supporting your teenager through body image struggles can be challenging for any parent, especially when you see them as handsome or beautiful. Offer to work out with your teenager if they want to try an exercise program.
Teenagers learn about life through experimentation, so be patient if they want to try a diet or become vegetarian. If you suspect she is abusing diet pills or suffering from an eating disorder, you should speak with her immediately about these risks. Teenagers want to look good, but they shouldn’t sacrifice their lives for a positive body image.