Posted on 7th June 2012
Body Image Lessons?
Alarming research by the All Party Parliament Group (APPG) has revealed that over 50% of the British public are not happy with their body image and girls as young as five are worrying about the way they look. Jo Swinson, who is the chairwoman of the APPG recently told BBC that there is currently a “definite problem” with body image in the UK and that it has “serious consequences”. She went onto say, “It’s something which has existed for a long time… but in terms of the scale of it, that is what is new, and it is being driven by the proliferation of media imagery portraying a so-called ‘perfected ideal’ that is entirely unattainable for the vast majority of people.”
Negative body image leads to low self-esteem, which in turn can lead to poor performance at school and work. Young people are particularly likely to feel dissatisfied with their bodies as they experience puberty and raging hormones, which cause dramatic changes to their bodies and mood very fast. Moreover, children often tend to absorb their parents’ anxieties, so if a mother is very unhappy with the way she looks; this is likely to transfer to her children as well. Secondary-age children tend to feel a great deal of pressure from their peers as well, so once one teenager in a friendship group starts obsessing over her weight, the others are likely to swiftly follow.
There are some extremely worrying facts about negative body image in the UK from the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of West England:1.6 million people in the UK have eating disorders; one in five people have been bullied because of their weight and one in five cosmetic surgery patients suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. Clearly this is a pressing problem, and we need to do something about it to stop things getting work and plunging millions more people into negative thinking about their looks and low self esteem.
In response to the recent research, there are calls by MPs to introduce body image and self-esteem lessons in schools. Personally I think this is an excellent plan. If you teach children early about healthy living, self-worth, confidence and that they are unique and do not ‘need’ to look like anyone else then hopefully these values will stay with them and encourage them to be healthy, happy adults as well.