Body Image and Perception
Body image is defined as to how believe we appear to the rest of the world. It is our perception of our physical characteristics. The amazing thing is that it is almost always false, and this inaccurate perception can lead to many emotional issues. For the longest time this used to be an issue that concerned mostly women, but with the growth of the beauty industry, and the ability of the media to reach us all whether we want to be reached or not, this problem now also affects men, especially young men.
At birth we have absolutely no body image. We have no idea what we look like and we simply don't care. But that changes very quickly as we become bombarded by never-ending television, commercials, magazines, etc., all telling us that we just don't fit the norm unless we lose weight, smell better, buy certain clothing, dye our hair, grow taller, build muscle, etc. Of course no one is ever able to meet these requirements, so we just try harder and harder. Creating a vicious cycle. Is it any wonder that many people develop psychological issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anorexia, bulimia, etc. It is estimated that just over half of women, and just under half of men are not happy with the way they look, regardless of whether their unhappiness is justified or not. The alarming observation is the early age at which this begins at. It is not unheard of to hear of pre-teenagers talking about dieting.
The ironic observation is that women see themselves as bigger/fatter than they really are, and that women believe that men prefer them to be thinner while this is only true a small percentage of the time.
For men, the irony is similar. Men see themselves as not muscular enough, and the believe that women prefer more muscular men, while women don't have that desire as much as men think it to be true.
There have been studies done where people are asked to pick their body shape from various outline samples on paper. Almost all women pick outlines that show them to be larger than they really are, and almost all men pick outlines that show them to be less muscular than they really are. This shows how inaccurate self perception really is, and really how irrelevant it really is.
Women tend to suffer emotional issues such as depression, and eating disorders. While men tend to suffer from the desire to e.g. take steroids, or other chemicals, to try and build muscle.
As already briefly mentioned, the inaccurate perceptions largely come from the media. Look at all the magazines we have today, all of them telling us what to eat, how much to eat, what we should weigh, what make-up to wear, what exercises to do, all so we will look like the person on the cover. But, if you look at real people on the street, only about 3%-5% might even come close to looking at the models on the magazine's front covers. And most of these pictures are probably airbrushed to perfection anyway.
We have been brain washed in trying to reach unattainable, unrealistic, ridiculous goals, while at the same time making the magazine publishers, and commercial companies very rich.