Ideal Body Image - The Influence of Society

Written by: Shruthi Chacko – M Sc

Last updated date : March 25, 2022

For a long time, people have been worrying about their body image. It can either be because of one’s weight, hair colour, height and shape or the size of specific body parts. Now, remember one does not only get bothered by what see in the mirror. In fact, if you give it a bit of thought, throughout history, people have always given great importance to one’s beauty. It is quite silly if you give it a thought. But, somehow we can manage to understand that our ancestors thought that way about ideal body image. As you know, back in the days there was a lack of knowledge and awareness regarding such things. But, to go on with those age-old values and beliefs of the past is mere stupidity in the present world. Hence, keep reading this article to know more about Ideal body image and society’s body image disorders.

Chapter 1:

Is There Really an Ideal Body Image?

This is a very valid question to pop up in your mind- is there really an ideal body image? The answer is a definite ” No”. There is no such thing as the “best” or the “perfect” body. But, it is true that there are some societal standards promoting an ideal body image. Ironically, society makes you feel that an ideal body image is your passport to gain approval or admiration from others. In fact, going to an extent that the “perfect” body is the key to gaining popularity, self-confidence, good health, a romantic partner, a successful career. In short, an ideal body is your ticket to having a good life. Don’t you find it all very nonsensical?

Now you may wonder what does this perfect or ideal body look like? For women, it is mostly to have thin/ supermodel bodies with curves in the right places. On the other hand, men, are stereotyped to have muscular bodies with broad shoulders and abs. While you are reading this, you may be already aware of these ideal body standards. In fact, like most people, you might have been told by others that- you are too thin, too fat or simply not fitting into the ideal body image mould made by society. Sometimes, it can be all too confusing and insensible. For example, women are expected to be thin, curvy, feminine and muscular at the same time- how is that even possible? Hence, if you really give it some thought, these body standards are baseless and illogical.


Chapter 2:

Society's Role in Shaping Body Image Standards

Media plays a big role in shipping idea body standards. The movies we watch, the books we read and the beauty industry popularise these ideas. Ironically, a majority of pop culture show women/men with perfect bodies. But, those features are enhanced by modern technology to make them look like that. In fact, these women/men may be in reality, seriously underweight. Therefore, it is only a minority of women who falls into such body ideals. It is very unfair to expect women to look like these so-called perfect bodies shown on media. If you think about it, It becomes hard for women to give up having mythically perfect bodies, as they are considered desirable. In a way, even if women want to appreciate their bodies, the constant chatter from the world about having a “perfect body” makes it hard on them.

Sadly, these ideal body standards can affect one’s emotional and mental wellbeing very much. Perhaps, it would have been better if these images of women with ” perfect bodies” and perfect features” didn’t cause a sense of envy and comparison among people. If the world around us was not very much obsessed with superficiality, people would be much happier with their current bodies and be okay with the way they look. Instead, we have a million-dollar diet, cosmetic industries trying to worsen this envy and comparison. Selling the idea that ” use our products to become beautiful and desirable”.


Chapter 3:

The Obsession with Crash Diets and Fads

Our society has an obsession with going on crash diets and fads to lose weight and have that ” ideal body” These extreme diets do not really work. Weight loss does not work that way. Definitely not by eating diet salads or starving yourself. Of course, you need to watch out for the calories you are taking, but the answer is not with starvation. Perhaps, you could lose weight doing this, but you can easily gain them back too. Hence, extreme diets are not a very sustainable way to lose all the weight. Moreover, following such diets can cause serious health problems too.

Now you may wonder, how can you lose weight in a healthy way? The answer is flexibility. Pay attention to what your body says. Only eat when you are actually hungry. You can indulge in a few cheat meals here and there. Think about ways in which you can make it sustainable to attain that nutritional balance. Most importantly, cherish the food you consume, it is fuel for your body. You should also include exercise in your lifestyle. Hence, the key to achieving a healthy body and mind is balance.


Chapter 4:

Society’s Body Image Disorders​

There are many kinds of body image disorders such as anorexia bulimia, binge eating disorders, bulimia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorders etc. We can say that societal ideal body standards are one of the culprits along with low self-esteem or personality traits etc. As mentioned earlier, we are constantly in pursuit have that ” perfect body”. We are never satisfied with the way our bodies look. Maybe, you wished your nose was slightly smaller or sharper. Perhaps, you wish you had much bigger and more expressive eyes. We are always comparing ourselves to “pretty women” and “handsome men” on social media. This leads to a lack of self-confidence, self-doubt and a negative body image and finally makes one vulnerable to become a victim of society’s body image disorders.


Chapter 5:

Always Remember...

The next time you find yourself comparing your body shape or size to someone online, remember that body size diversity is perfectly normal. Remember that your body shape is not your determining your beauty or self-worth. Always remember to think logically and critically about these media stereotypes of the ” Ideal body”. Most importantly, accept yourselves and others for what they are, not for their measurements.


Chapter 6

What You Should Do Instead!

Now, there are a few things you can do instead of falling into the trap of these baseless standards.
  • Questioning these standards
  • Try not to buy fashion magazines
  • Take a conscious effort to stop comapring your body to models or celebrities online
  • Try to become self aware and reflect why such biases are within you
  • Accept your body for the way it is
At Epsychonline we have a series of self-help courses including ”Body Image Concerns” that can help you improve your negative body image and make you more self-confident. Please visit our Courses page to find learn about it. Perhaps, you may wish to understand more about body image. If yes, then maybe you could try reading up a bit more on ” Disturbed body Image: Are you at Risk? ” or ” Stop body shaming- What needs to be done?” to get a better understanding of body image.