Body Image and Its Effect on Teenagers


Hailey Liga, Reporter

How body image is portrayed on social media can really take a toll on teenagers’ mindsets about their bodies. Society focuses on girls being affected by body types they see on social media, but that doesn’t mean boys aren’t affected by those images as well. Body image being portrayed on social media doesn’t always have negative effects, though, as it can have some positive effects. If any of this triggers you or you feel uncomfortable at any time, please close the tab.  

Unfortunately, in today’s society, some people think there has to be a certain standard body shape that men and women need to have in order to look attractive. The expectation is that men are tall and in perfect shape like having abs, and that women are hourglass shaped with a skinny waist and stomach. However we, as humans, cannot easily control what our bodies look like, depending on if we had some type of medical condition or not. It also takes a lot of time to achieve something like losing a lot of weight. People having those body image standards towards people can make someone really insecure about themselves. People might think they have to have a body like that which might cause someone to have an eating disorder. This can come in a variety of ways where someone starts eating less to have a skinnier or “athletic” body shape if they don’t have that “standardized” body. 

According to some research I did, there’s a mental health disorder called body dysmorphic disorder. It’s when a person is unable to stop thinking about one or more defects or flaws in their appearance, a minor flaw or a flaw that others can’t see. When someone has body dysmorphic disorder, they tend to focus on their appearance and body image very intensely, constantly check the mirror, seek reassurance, and it sometimes occurs for many hours within a single day. These things might cause a person to have significant stress and it can impact someone’s ability to function in their daily life. There’s a chance that someone would try to figure out a way to fix their perceived flaw which leads to having temporary satisfaction and a reduction in stress, but the stress and anxiety may eventually come back, then the person’s going to want to find a different way to fix their flaw. Some symptoms that determine someone might have body dysmorphic disorder are having a feeling that people notice someone’s appearance in a negative way or mock that person, attempting to hide the flaws by styling like wearing makeup or wearing a certain clothing type, comparing themselves to others’ appearances, constantly asking someone their opinion about the person’s body image, avoiding social situations, and having a really strong thoughts about a defect in their appearance that makes them think they are ugly or deformed in some way. If a person ends up developing any of these symptoms or signs, seeing their health care provider or a mental health professional is strongly advised. 

The disorder doesn’t get better on its own and if someone leaves it untreated, it could possibly get worse over time which ends up leading to anxiety, severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts and behavior. No one actually knows what specifically causes body dysmorphic disorder, but the possible causes to the disorder are a combination of issues. This can include a family history of the disorder, negative thoughts about your body or self image, and abnormal brain function. This disorder normally tends to start during early teenage years in both men and women. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent body dysmorphic disorder, but identifying the disorder as early as possible and starting a treatment or a long-term maintenance treatment for symptoms both might have benefits.    

Aside from social media, what makes people jealous of body shapes the most are models. We constantly have to see models in store advertisements, on the covers of magazines, on social media, and in runway shows. Women models tend to have that skinny hourglass figure and it’s worse for people’s mindsets when the models are either wearing bikini swimsuits or some sort of lingerie because those things show how skinny the models are, making a girl feel jealous of the model or even insecure. It could also have a girl thinking “I want that type of body” when in reality they should love their bodies as they are. As for male models, boys could feel jealous and end up feeling insecure about themselves but it’s not talked about as much. It’s always good to achieve a goal you want especially when it comes to losing weight, but wanting to lose weight just because of feeling  jealousy over another person’s body image isn’t a good influence to lose weight. People should want to lose weight for themselves, not because they feel the need to have to lose weight just to match up with someone else’s standards or liking.   

There are some positive effects when it comes to looking at others on social media, but there aren’t a lot. For example, say you had a friend that posted a bikini picture that she felt confident in. Instead of feeling jealous, you could compliment her and feel supportive towards her which could make her feel good about herself. One of the only positive effects include making someone else feel good about themselves when they look nice or feel confident in themselves. Making someone feel good about themselves sometimes will make someone else feel good because they might have just made someone’s day by saying something really nice. Another positive effect could include someone promoting fitness or being healthy that could inspire someone. Someone has a choice of whether they want change to their body image or not and they aren’t forced to do anything out of their comfort zone. Promoting things like fitness is always good because it could help someone with choosing the right choices for their bodies whether it has to do with their image or their health. Feeling inspired to make changes is always a good thing because you’re not directly influenced by someone with a so called “better body image” and you’re doing what you want with your body not what people want you to do.

Body shaming is a big issue that needs to be talked about more because of its extremely negative effects on mental health. Body shaming someone could draw them to hate themselves or commit self harm. There’s a lot of people who get body shamed for either being “too fat” or “too skinny”. These people are constantly being told to eat more or eat less. You can’t force someone to eat more food if they don’t want to or eat less food and possibly have them starve themselves. 

Body shaming someone could lead to someone making poor choices and having unhealthy habits whether those are mental like starting the habit of taking drugs due to a messed up mentality or physical like not eating right or self harming in some way. In my opinion body shaming doesn’t often happen as much as it used to in this school, specifically because people matured, but there are rude comments towards people about their looks from time to time whether it’s about their weight or their looks in general.

Students at West Springfield High School were open to sharing about what their views are towards body shaming and “standard” body images some people might have towards others. Some people mentioned that they don’t feel comfortable with their body shape, or for some other people it depends on the day if they feel comfortable with their bodies or not. Everyone mentioned in their own way that body shaming is completely wrong and people should get to wear what they want without rude commentary like girls getting shamed for showing a little skin. 

People cannot control what they look like so they shouldn’t be getting body shamed no matter the circumstance, and commenting on how someone dresses in a rude way can really affect how that person feels and they won’t have the self confidence they normally would have when wearing what they like. The majority of people I interviewed have gotten body shamed before whether it was awhile ago or recently. They’re all able to cope in their own ways, whether that coping strategy is healthy for the mind or not. Even though they may or may not have been affected by body shaming, they’re staying strong and being the best person they can be. 

It’s important to have self love and according to junior Julia Cincotta, you can’t change who you are and it’s important to love yourself and it’s not selfish to have self love. Sophomore Finn Hernandez stated that body shaming is really upsetting due to everyone having different body shapes they may or may not feel comfortable in, and he also mentioned that people are special just the way they are and they should love who they are. Fellow classmate of mine, senior Katelynn Heinrich-Stewart, mentioned a really important point that some people are unable to gain or lose weight which makes them look the way they are. If someone has nothing nice to say about a person’s appearance then they should just not say anything to begin with which is also stated by senior Haya Al Nuwab. Human bodies are blessing that should be embraced according to Katelynn.

To tie everyone’s responses together, it’s absolutely important that people should love who they are and love their bodies considering everyone’s body shape is unique. Self love is something that might take some time to develop whether it’s a few months, within a day, or even several years. Confidence is also something that sometimes takes awhile to develop but it’s important to feel that confidence especially because it positively affects your emotional state in all ways imaginable, and slowly developing confidence might end up leading to self love. 

I used to get bullied and body shamed back in middle school up until my freshman year of high school and it’s never a good thing to receive comments like that. It took a toll on me and I hated how I looked but I never really did much to change it because I feel like it got bad to the point where I was just unmotivated to help myself. I didn’t necessarily know how to cope with it, especially because of the fact that I was in middle school. The body shaming stopped my freshman year but from time to time I would still get made fun of or whatever reason. It stopped last year, my junior year, and my mentality has grown so much since middle school. I have learned not to let the negative comments bother me and even if they do, I don’t let it show because the people who body shamed me just wanted to get a reaction out of me. Now I realize that I don’t have to give those people the reaction that they’re looking for. If I was able to let it go and not let the hate bother me, considering I was in a terrible state of mind while getting body shamed, I’m sure others would be able to just ignore the rude comments as well. Trust me it’s hard to get through something like that, but everything eventually gets better and if it doesn’t there’s always someone to help. 

Body images on social media or anywhere around the world can have some sort of effect on people whether that affect is a negative one, being jealous, or a positive one, like feeling happy that someone is confident in themselves. Body shaming occurs because we live in a society that’s highly focused on physical appearance and how we’re “supposed to” look and if we don’t look a certain way we get bullied for it which is what body shaming is. People do not need to look a certain way to be attractive. Attractiveness can also come from within a person, not always their looks. Everyone is beautiful no matter what they look like, all in their own special ways. You should love who you are and always feel confident in your body image, even if you’re having a bad day. All bodies are beautiful.