Who do you think is more critical of themselves when looking in the mirror? Men or women? If you asked someone it’s likely you’d think they would say a women, right? Through social media, fashion, and the celebrity culture we live in you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that females are the sex that are more self-conscious about their body image, especially as the fashion and beauty world is still a pretty female dominated one.
It’s not surprising that how we think we look is an important factor in our everyday lives. On average we look in the mirror 8 times a day. Which doesn’t sound too bad, as it’s only natural that we want to keep an eye on how we look throughout the day. However, for people who feel anxious about the way they look it can be up to 40 times a day they will look at themselves, through any reflective device, not just a mirror. Socially, “attractive” people are seen to have advantages over people seen as “less attractive”. This idea comes from things like film culture and social media with celebrities (e.g. celebrities being compared to each other on an attractiveness level). Psychologically there have
been some surprising results from studies into attractiveness and everyday life. It’s been shown that pupils who teachers deem attractive will be given higher expectations of the work they can do in the classroom, and will also be more popular with the teacher too. It has also been proven that more “attractive” people will be found guilty less often in court, and if found guilty will receive a less sever sentence. Surprising results, right?
So where does this idea of attractiveness stem from?
If we think back to our childhoods we can find it there, in the fantasy worlds we used to play in and in the fairy-tale stories we used to read and watch. Think back to your favorite fairy tale/Disney story as a child, who was your favorite character? The hero or the villain? The princess/prince or the witch? It’s likely you’d be thinking of the hero/princess/prince right? That’s where the stereotype of the idea that what’s beautiful is good comes from. The princess is always seen as beautiful and the witch is always seen as ugly. Even when playing pretend as young children, it’s a lot more likely we would choose to dress up and be a princess/prince then an evil witch or villain from a story. And unconsciously this starts the chain of our relationship with ourselves and our bodies.
Assessing how we look before we leave the house, go to an interview or go on a date is perfectly normal and only natural. As we want to feel comfortable and confident with how we’ve put ourselves together before all these things. However, it’s when we cross a line that looking in a mirror can become dangerous for our health and well-being, resulting in not seeing yourself clearly anymore. What I’m talking about here is Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a dangerous disorder, as people can suffer with it without even realizing and it’s normally something that occurs between your mind and the mirror. Which means it can lead to other disorders such as Anorexia or Bulimia as people who suffer with body dysmorphia don’t commonly share their feelings about how they see themselves with others. The number of people with body dysmorphia has risen to 1 in every 100
people being affected (from 1 in every 200), and is very common in the early teen years, with similar numbers of males and females being affected. There’s a correlation here with the age body dysmorphia commonly starts and what children that age become exposed to. For example the age children are joining social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook has decreased. Therefore the age where children/teens have started comparing themselves to others has also decreased.
So what can be done to help stop the rise in this disorder?
First of all we need to understand and be able to recognize behaviors of the BDD (body dysmorphic disorder), for ourselves and so we can recognize it in our close friends and family members. The behaviors include:
. Comparing yourself, particularly your looks to other peoples
. Spending long amount of time in from of a mirror and sometimes avoiding mirrors all together
. Feeling distressed/anxious about a particular part of your body
. Wanting and taking the time to hide/make less noticeable the part of your body which gives you anxious feeling (so this could include using makeup to do this)
. Feeling anxious to go into social situations where you feel that part of your body will be very exposed (this could include being up close with someone if that part someone feels anxious about is on their face)
. Excessive dieting/exercise
. Thinking about or actively seeking medical treatment for that part of the body, e.g. cosmetic surgery
As you can probably tell from the list of behaviors, it’s pretty difficult to be able to tell if someone is suffering with this disorder, even if they are a close friend/family member. As these behaviors are things that someone suffering with BDD will feel and not show in front of other people. Things that can be done to help the most include; raising awareness and talking about BDD to de-stigmatise and help people understand the whole idea behind the disorder (something I hope this article will help in doing). Reaching out to people on a large scale through social media devices is also something that would be beneficial, as for a young teen to see their favorite celebrity on Instagram posting a picture of themselves without makeup, or tweeting about BDD is also going to go a long way for a fan who may be suffering in secret, or even suffering without realizing it.
So the answer here is no, women are not more self-critical then men. Although this may have been the case in the past, due to social media, the pressure for the male sex to be as attractive as seen in magazines, fashion and celebrity culture has risen. Meaning both genders are just as vulnerable to being critical of their body image, and therefore just as vulnerable as each other to developing BDD.
Writer Charlotte Spivack –
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