Where we have grown up, who we spend our time with, and what we see in the media all affects how we perceive ourselves and others around us. One big social influence is on our body image and self-esteem. How many times have you found yourself comparing how you look to a celebrity or a friend or some stranger walking by? "How come I do not look like him?" "Man, I'd kill to have those cheekbones." "Her butt is perfect. Mine sucks... I suck. No one will want me." You get the idea.
Overall, we think of those with gorgeous bodies to be perfect, to be successful, to have everything going right for them. If we have any flaws, whether they are actually there or not based on our perceptions, we deem ourselves to be unworthy in some way or another. We internalize these ideas from external sources. Now... just where do these ideas come from? How do they affect us? Let's check 'em out.
Your parents, grandparents, older siblings, and the like are the first influences you have in your lives. This is the "nurture" part of your environment. You learn manners from your parents. You learn how to dress properly. You learn what is right and what is wrong.
You also might hear someone in your family react negatively to body image concerns. A young girl might see her mom fuss over her hair on a daily basis and incessantly try to cover up her face with a layer of products, making the girl assume that is what she needs to do to look good. A teenage boy might hear his father discussing with his friends the idea that jocks and the like get all the women, that skinny dudes are not wanted. He may end up feeling ugly for not having enough muscles. You might have been compared with your sister for years, some calling her the "pretty one."
These situations and people can leave lasting impressions on you as you get older. Anyone who has children or is thinking about having them in the future should remember to watch what is said around them. As the saying goes, "A child's mind is like a sponge." It will retain things that seem unimportant to you and internalize them in ways you did not think possible.
Friends and Peers:
We all know that friends' opinions become more valuable as we get older. The comments from your family members might and probably do become less important. Once puberty hits, we start to want that attention from whichever gender we are attracted to. We want to look good for that special guy or gal... or a whole bunch of 'em, whatever floats your boat. Teenage girls comparing each themselves to one another starts to become a huge thing as well. "Oh, my goodness. You look so good! I loooove your hair! Your eyebrows are on fleek! I look so disgusting." It is so commonplace that you may not even think of how that truly is affecting your views on your body or how it affects someone else's.
This clip from "Inside Amy Schumer" sums things up well enough. *Disclaimer: Do not watch this is you are easily offended and/or dislike foul language.*
You knew this one was going to be on the list. The media - whether it'd be television, social media, movies, even Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe action figures, etc... - plays a huge role in our lives. The media plants unrealistic expectations in our minds all the time. You see more actors and actresses with slim, muscled physiques and flawless skin than you do with ones that have a slight belly and stretch marks or acne scars. Any time those gossip columns and magazines get a hold of a famous person looking slightly less than "perfect," they run with it. "Oh, look at her with her cellulite and pudgy stomach!" "What so-and-so REALLY looks like!" As such, when we see those things in print or film, we assume and start to believe that we should look like them and must be hideous just because our bodies have a little bit extra fat or we do not have every strand of hair in place.
The thing is - and more and more people are recognizing this - that many of the images we are presented are not true reality. That model on the magazine cover has been Photoshopped. That celebrity walking the red carpet has a bunch of make-up on her face to cover up that zit (though she probably still looks beautiful without all the foundation and concealer). That actor works out for hours a day and has a super restricted diet to help him obtain those chiseled abs. With that in mind, many of us do not have the time in our days to work out for hours. We do not have make-up artists at our beck and call. We do not have Photoshop that can alter how we look daily.
What does all of that tell us, ladies and gents? That zit, a scar, a little chub, a little less hair on the top of your head than you would like... they are not as bad as the media makes it out to be. You can still look handsome or pretty with a few "flaws," which many probably see as a non-issue anyway. Work towards obtaining realistic goals for yourself if you think you need some work... and know that someone out there thinks you look damn good. ;)