Body Image and Life Satisfaction

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Research on 12,000 participants done by Chapman University explored personality attributes, beliefs about romantic relationships, self-esteem, television viewing, and personal characteristics. The vast majority of us are likely to have some sort of issue that we would like to be able to change about our appearance or our body. Few people think they are perfect. However, if you feel like part of your appearance negatively affects your self-esteem, you shouldn’t accept this as normal.

“Our study shows that men’s and women’s feelings about their weight and appearance play a major role in how satisfied they are with their lives overall,” said David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and lead author on the study.

For women, satisfaction with overall appearance was the third strongest predictor of overall life satisfaction, behind only satisfaction with financial situation and satisfaction with romantic partner. For men, appearance satisfaction was the second strongest predictor of life satisfaction, behind only satisfaction with financial situation.

“Few men (24%) and women (20%) felt very or extremely satisfied with their weight, and only half felt somewhat to extremely satisfied,” said Dr. Frederick. “These findings are consistent with the emphasis placed on the importance of being slender for women and for appearing athletic and/or lean for men. It would seem therefore, that we still have a long way to go before we achieve the goal of Americans being truly happy with their bodies.”

People who were dissatisfied with their weight reported substantially less satisfaction with their sex lives and lower overall self-esteem. The results also showed that people’s orientations towards their relationships–known as “attachment styles”–were linked to how people felt about their bodies. People with an “anxious” attachment style are often preoccupied with their romantic relationships and fearful that their partners will leave them. Women with more anxious and fearful attachment styles were more dissatisfied with their appearance and weight.

Dr. Frederick noted that, “body dissatisfaction and anxious attachment styles can lead to an out of control spiral and fuel each other. People who are less confident in their appearance become more fearful that their partner will leave, which further fuels their worries about their appearance.”

The results showed that dissatisfied people had higher neuroticism, had more preoccupied and fearful attachment styles, and spent more hours watching television. In contrast, satisfied people had higher openness, conscientious, extraversion, are more secure in attachment style, and had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Other key findings included:

  • People who watched more hours of television per week were less satisfied with their appearance and weight.
  • People who were more satisfied with their physical appearance and weight reported more secure attachment styles, versus fearful and dismissive attachment styles.
  • People who were more satisfied with their appearance reported greater self-esteem, greater satisfaction with life, sex life, friends, romantic partners, family, and financial situation.
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) was strongly related to dissatisfaction with appearance and weight.

If you find it difficult to accept yourself or to look yourself in the mirror without negative emotions surging up, then these tips might help.

Show yourself some love

The first thing that you should do is show yourself that you are deserving of love, no matter what you feel about aspects of your appearance. You likely wouldn’t say that someone else is undeserving of love because they have one perceived flaw or another, so you should treat yourself with the same kindness that you would treat that stranger. Take the time to treat yourself well, pamper yourself, take a day to indulge in what makes you feel good, and tell yourself that you are worth that level of attention and care.

Change it around

Those who have appearance-related self-esteem issues, also known as beauty self-esteem issues, have a tendency to hyper-fixate over one, two, or a few parts of their appearance that they take particular issues with. However, if you give yourself the opportunity to see yourself as a whole, then you can feel a lot more confident with your appearance. Play to your strengths with some retail therapy and change up your hairstyle. A change in your look can help you better appreciate the strengths that you do have. The compliments likely to come your way can be a nice ego boost, too.

Talk about treatments that might help

If you can accept your flaws, then that is the best-case scenario. However, in some cases, the right treatment may prove to improve your mental condition. For instance, a botox and depression treatment can help address the causes of your concerns, physically changing them and also raising your self-esteem at the same time. It’s important to realize that cosmetic treatments are no magic wand and they might not have the exact impact that you want, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be helpful, either. Having the right expectations of your results can help you be happy with them.

Get rid of toxic influences in your life

Honestly, there are so many negative reinforcers telling women how they ought to look that it can be exhausting. The easiest ones to get rid of are the magazines that subconsciously enforce rigorous and narrow beauty standards that can only really apply to a very specific set of women. If there is anyone in your life who fills your head with negative comments about your appearance, you need to start limiting your interactions with them, as well. Not only is this not helpful, but it’s legitimately a form of abuse.

The approach for everyone is not the same. Cosmetic treatments might help some, but they won’t help others. Take your time and act with caution, working to find the solutions that are best for you.

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