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Motivate Yourself 99: Body Image And The Media

Maybe it's because of the few days of good weather that we had last month but in May I noticed quite a dramatic increase in my consulting room of people upset over their body shape.
Often going as far as to say that they hate themselves for the way they look.
Yet, there are always people that are bigger, heavier, lumpier than them, people that actually couldn't care less and are happy!

So why do we have this hangup nowadays with the way we look?
Well, it's obviously to do with exposure, it wasn't that long ago that the only people we saw were the people around us. But now we have images of people everywhere, and not paintings on Billboards that we know aren't real, but photo-realistic images everywhere we go.
It may have started quite innocently. A company that uses a pretty woman in their advert finds that more people will look at it, so the company does well because of the pretty lady in the advert, so a competing company comes along and has to put a pretty lady in it otherwise it will be overlooked and so on and so on.

What we need to bear in mind is that if we expose ourselves to anything on a regular enough basis, however odd it may be, it will very soon become the norm.
If you spend a week living on a boat, when you get off it it will feel as if the world is wobbling all over the place.
Now we know this, and yet if we constantly see the world through the eyes and ideas of an advertising company then we need to know that if we feel wobbly it's nothing more than a perception thing. That our brain has got so used to seeing stretched and airbrushed women in adverts that the normal looking women look fat and funny looking.

Something that annoyed me last month was the reviews of a version of the opera Der Rosenkavalier in Sussex at the Glyndebourne Festival 2 weeks ago.
When the reviews came out in the newspapers, each review pointed to a problem with the portrayal of the Opera's hero, Octavian, a male character but written for a female voice and thus has always been played on stage by a woman.
In these reviews Tara Erraught, the Irish singer was described as "dumpy", "stocky", and in the case of the Financial Times, "A chubby bundle of puppy fat!"
Tara Erraught
Now, this is Tara Erraught, she's quite a normal shape and size for an opera singer, and she's actually quite attractive.

But let me remind you of her job again, she's a "singer" so why do the newspapers need to make any reference at all to her body shape?

What is happening in our society that means that doing that is now a normal thing to do.
Because if it becomes the norm to do that to other people, it also becomes the norm to do that to ourselves, and that's not fair!
Especially as when comparing ourselves to others it's not more normal looking people that we compare ourselves to. It's the photo-realistic illustrations on the front cover of magazines. The photoshopped, stretched unrealistic images that catch our eye!
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Has Marilyn Monroe suddenly stopped being attractive?
Would she be dumpy nowadays? Or "a chubby bundle of puppy fat" It's horrible to think that she probably would.

It's as if our perception of what is normal is being slowly warped. In 1970 the average age that a girl begins to diet was 14, in 1990 it was 8 according to one study!

I dread to think what it may be now but we know from research that children, girls particularly, begin expressing concerns about their body shape at age 6. SIX!

I made a picture for the Facebook page last month that spread itself around the internet quite nicely, so thanks to everyone who shared it.
I think it sums it up quite nicely.
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Click here to share it yourself if you would like to, and see if you can open up someone to the reality of what the media does.

Because its not just about our perceptions of the way we look that the media has influence over. These TV channels or magazines are all desperately trying to get our attention.
And the more they can do that, then the more money they get.

So please, take everything that you see, hear or come across in the media with a massive pinch of salt. Because if the newspapers want you to buy theirs rather than someone elses paper they'll put something negative on the front page to make you look, spreading fear.
And although that's good for me, the more anxiety in the world the more therapy I have to provide, but I'd much rather not have to do my job. I'd love a day where I would genuinely be redundant.
But it's not going to happen in a rush. Because we're all a mixed up bunch of scaredy cats, and it's not our fault that we learned to become that way. But it is our fault if we don't do anything about getting better!
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