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The Growing Epidemic of Negative Body Image in Teens

Learn more about the world of systemic negative body image and how you can cope with it

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Over 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being “fat,” and around 30% of 10-14-year-olds actively partake in dieting (Park Nicollet Melrose Center). As you can observe from these statistics, so many people suffer from negative body image every day. You may be asking yourself why? Why do so many people feel this way? The media plays a significant role in this. People in media are photoshopped so unrealistically thin or have impossibly perfect facial features that young adults reading or watching this media seem to be under the impression that this is how people look in real life. They believe that this is what society considers attractive, and to look like this, they participate in extremely unhealthy habits such as self-harm or unhealthy dieting. As social media gets increasingly involved in youth’s daily lives, it becomes crucial to spark conversation about this issue.

It can tax anyone’s mental health to grow up in a society like ours that glorifies being thin. So many young people live life, always reminding themselves that they aren’t good enough. A negative body image is not something that stops after one reaches adulthood; CBS News reports that 97% of women have negative body image. 

After seeing how widespread issues with your own body can be, it is essential to look at all the other aspects of life that a negative body image can affect. There is a link between a negative outlook on one’s body and low-self esteem, anxiety, depression, and self-harming behaviors. In fact, “over 50% of teens girls and 30% of teen boys (“I’m, Like, So Fat”) use unhealthy weight controlling behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.” It is crucial to address this at a young age as a lack of self-esteem can lead to thoughts of self-harm and suicidal tendencies.

Anyone can mitigate the effects of negative body image in a variety of ways. For example, if parents are willing to have a conversation with their child about the distortions in the media (photoshop, unhealthy perception of an “ideal body”), this can make the child more comfortable about their body. They would also feel safer talking to the parent whenever they feel insecure about themselves based on what they see around them. Another way to foster body positivity would be daily affirmations. These can be in the form of verbal or written affirmations that you may spend a couple of minutes in the morning doing. Studies (Casio, O’Donnell, et al.) have shown that self-affirmations can make a huge difference in one’s self-confidence and boost overall performance.

It is imperative to give yourself the time to heal and become more confident in your body; it cannot happen instantly. Self-love is a vital part of everyone’s lives. It is often said that the first step to loving someone else is loving yourself. Start with celebrating who you are and how far you’ve come in your journey. Your body is your own, and it deserves to be loved just as much as you do. To learn more about the world of body positivity and tips you can use to foster better body image, listen to Ms. Alexandra Xu, body positivity and social justice activist, at https://youtu.be/yVxFZHO35_I.

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