NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
I have written a number of posts on the topic of body image, but today I’d like to take a step back to discuss the concept of body image in general and how it may be measured. Included are links to helpful online resources, including some body image assessments.
Once we have a baseline measurement of our current body image, it will be easier to check back later in the year to see how we’re progressing. Future posts will focus on concepts and exercises for improving the way we view and experience our bodies.
First, A Definition…
We all have a general idea of what is meant by the term “body image,” but I thought it might be helpful to start with an objective definition. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines body image as follows:
a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others
More important than the definition of body image are our individual experiences and perception of this concept. I found an interesting quiz related to body image on the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) website (2018 update – quiz no longer available). This quiz tests knowledge of societal trends related to body image, dieting, eating disorders, and related concepts. While I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable about these topics, I was only able to answer 6 of the 10 questions correctly. I think I didn’t want to believe things had gotten as bad as they have!
Body Dissatisfaction is Now the Norm
According to the NOW quiz, 80% of U.S. Women are dissatisfied with their appearance! NOW attributes this astronomical statistic to the unrealistic beauty standard promoted by the media, fashion, cosmetics and diet industries. It is very difficult for any woman to live up to the societal ideals for what her body should look like, which often leads to a negative body image. I know that when I compare myself to the actresses and models I see on TV and in magazines and movies, I find myself “lacking.”
One surprising fact mentioned by NOW is that the average fashion model weighs 41% less than the typical American women. Just 20 years ago, the differential was only 8%! Sure, part of the change can be attributed to the rise in obesity in this country, but I believe there are other factors at play. After all, if you compare the “supermodels” of today with those of the 80s and early 90s, you’ll notice that today’s models are dramatically thinner. I discuss this shift in my post, “Just What IS Plus-Sized?”
Some Body Image Assessments
I found a few good online self-assessments for body image and took them today. Below I share the links for these tests, as well as my scores:
Netdoctor – How Good is Your Body Image (My Score =38, test no longer available)
Summary: You have a poor body image that is placing major restrictions on your willingness to engage in the day-to-day tasks of everyday life, destroying your ability to have fun, and denting your self-esteem in a very big way. I wonder if you have been aware of this until now – it is so much easier just to avoid doing the things that give us anxiety.
You may not have a perfect body, indeed your body may be very far from perfect, however, your body has become your enemy and you are very self-absorbed. You are probably unaware that your feelings are not an accurate reflection of how you really are or of how other people see you.
Bodywise Body Image Quiz (My Score=49)
Summary: If your total is greater than 30, you may have some body image issues that are affecting your self esteem and your behaviors. Try and be more aware of your attitudes, read about body image, talk with a professional if necessary. Hating your body won’t change it, but learning to accept it will help you feel a lot better!
Body Image Self-Assessment (My Score=Moderately Dissatisfied)
No Summary Provided.
Queendom – The Body Image Test (My Score=20)
Summary: You’re not overjoyed with your physical appearance – to put it lightly. You feel quite uncomfortable in situations where you have to reveal a little skin, and likely go out of your way to avoid them altogether. You feel inadequate when you compare yourself to others, and may even go to extreme lengths (plastic surgery, severe dieting) to change the way you look. What it boils down to is this: the negative view you have of your looks is putting a serious damper on the way you live.
We Have a Baseline…
As you can see, the results vary depending upon the test, as each test includes different types of questions. I took many more tests than what I have posted. I only included the measurements I felt were most useful and accurate. I intend to re-take these assessments in several months to see how my body image has changed. My expectation is that since I am making a concerted effort to improve the way I feel about my body, my scores will improve as time goes on.
I hope that the resources presented in this post are helpful to you in providing basic information about body image, societal trends, and a baseline for your current body image.
I close with a few positive quotes related to body image and self-esteem:
“I used to look in the mirror and feel shame; I look in the mirror now and absolutely love myself.” – Drew Barrymore
“Instead of spending life’s precious energy asking ‘Is my butt too big?’ spend it asking ‘Is my life too small?’“ – Katherine Brown
“Where bodies are concerned, there is no norm. Because we are all different! Which is what makes us REAL. And celebrating that difference is what positive body image is about.” – Dr. Samantha Thomas
“Peace, love, hope and confidence are the ingredients to good body image.” – Dr. Vivian Mehan