SECOND in a series about women's self-esteem
What's more surprising than the mental health link is that low self-esteem causes many capable women to lose confidence in parenting, job, and relationship skills. It also interferes with their ability to achieve life goals. Mental health professionals characterize low self-esteem as a thinking disorder in which a person views her/himself as inadequate. The feeling ranges along a spectrum from being unlovable to being incompetent.
The resulting negative self-image ("body dysmorphia") becomes an unavoidable obsession. The woman’s self-esteem relates more strongly to how she views her own body shape and body weight than to reality--how much she actually does weigh and the true shape of her figure. All on its own, the false picture sets women up for faulty logic and behavior that is self-defeating.
"The pressure on women to look and behave in certain ways is so deeply ingrained in our psyches that it’s easy to overlook the impact mass culture has on how we feel about ourselves and our bodies," says Our Bodies, Ourselves, the respected reference for women for over 40 years. "Watching TV, reading magazines and newspapers, surfing the Net, we are bombarded with airbrushed images of perfect beauty and thinness."
"We see an average of 2,000 images a day in advertising alone," says the director of a British eating disorders charity. "Most of these include bodies that are more slender than average."
The fashion, diet, and cosmetic industries feed into this warped thinking by setting impossible criteria for beauty in terms of thinness and youth. Twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed about 10% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs almost 25% less. Most runway models are so far below normal that they meet the Body Mass Index criteria for anorexia.
Damaging stereotypes hold true in the same way in many other areas of media: music lyrics and videos, magazines, sports media, video games, television, movies, the Internet, and advertising.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has been covering women's health for Examiner.com since the zine's official startup. She has reported on health issues with Olympic athletes, Sheryl Crow, Robin Roberts, Mary Tyler Moore, and other newsmaking celebs. Sandy also covered the 2012-2013 influenza epidemic, top women's health news of 2012 (including prevention), and the fungal meningitis outbreak.
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