Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy as we unfairly compare ourselves to other women who we perceive as being prettier, smarter, and thinner. HEALTH learns that negative body image is one of the worst things a woman can do to herself.
When Sue, a size 14, wanted to get in shape, she joined her local gym. “I was looking forward to my aerobics class and even decided to eat healthy foods to accelerate weight loss. But from my third day going, a slender woman joined our class. At first, I ignored her- but between watching her and seeing myself, I quit the class…” Every woman has suffered this at some point- being in a party looking really good when all of a sudden a gorgeous woman strides in. Suddenly you feel fat.
What it Means
Body envy is based on a negative ‘body image’ and a lack of self-esteem. These women usually have rigid predetermined ideals about how a normal, proper, or beautiful body should be combined with society’s obsessive preoccupation with weight. Society portrays having a so-called perfect body as the key—to landing a dream job, to having good health, and to having popularity and success.
Body envy can become problematic when it limits your life. You stop going to the gym and dread being seen in fitting workout wear near skinnier women. Constantly comparing your body with how other women look can lead to a distorted perception of your shape and size.
All research to date on body image shows that women are much more critical of their appearance than men and are much less likely to admire what they see in the mirror. Women talk endlessly about how we don’t like our bodies, about how we wish we could only lose a few kilos; we chatter ceaselessly about fat, carbs, and BMIs over lunch, and over coffee.
A Guide to Banishing Body Envy
- Develop criteria for selfesteem that go beyond appearance. One way to make appearance less important is to develop other benchmarks for self-evaluation such as the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects.
- Seek out friends who have healthy body and self-images.
- Exercise for fun, strength, fitness, and health, not just weight control.
- Eat to nourish your body and listen to its signals for when to eat and when to stop.