Proof Your Body Image Can Change in As Little As 2 Minutes
The body positivity movement is thriving more than ever these days, largely thanks to the openness of the internet and the willingness of both women and men everywhere to express their own interpretations of what beauty means to them. It’s certainly very refreshing and inspiring to see so many people breaking the mold, but a lot of people still struggle with feeling unfazed by certain beauty standards and expectations they’re constantly exposed to by society.
A recent study conducted by Macquarie University sought to examine the ways in which the perceptual mechanisms of the brain adapted to images of the self and images of other people. Researchers found that the way people perceived themselves could be altered just by looking at images of themselves and of other people that had been digitally altered.
In one experiment, a group of 24 people who participated in the study were shown images of other people that had been Photoshopped to make them look thinner or fatter than they actually were. In another experiment, a group of 35 participants were shown images of themselves that had also been Photoshopped to look thinner or fatter.
Most of the participants in both groups perceived themselves as “abnormally thin” when they were shown the images edited to make the subject appear thinner. Likewise, they considered themselves to look “abnormally fat” when they saw the images edited to make the subject look larger.
The researchers say these results confirm that our perceptions of ourselves can be adapted to images of people that have been digitally manipulated to look thinner or fatter, and it can be done in as little as two minutes. They suspect that if participants had been exposed to the Photoshopped images for a prolonged period of time, the aftereffects on self-perception (and others) would last much longer.
The researchers also noted the peculiar fact that some people simply don’t experience the same adaption and perceptive misconception when exposed to the same imagery as those who do. The reason why remains a mystery, but we can probably chalk it up to the complexity of the brain.
If a couple minutes of exposure to altered body imagery can have an effect on how we perceive ourselves, consider the implications of years of exposure to this sort of stuff. According to Dove’s recent Global Beauty and Confidence Report, which involved interviewing 10,500 young women from 13 countries, women’s confidence in their bodies is steadily declining. Low body esteem is now a global problem experienced by women of all ages around the world.
Society as a whole certainly has a lot of work to do in order to catch up to the body positivity movement that’s been making waves online and in some parts of traditional media. Until then, women (and men too) who struggle with body image issues will have to be cautious about what they’re exposing themselves to on a day-to-day basis if they truly do want to feel better about their bodies. It’s one thing to support body positivity, but quite another to really feel its significance and impact on a deeper level.
If you want to change your own body image for the better, try these tips:
- Ditch the gossipy magazines, shallow reality TV shows and other entertainment sources you think reinforces any standard of beauty that makes you feel bad about yourself.
- Make a daily habit out of checking in with body-positive role models (online or offline) who inspire you to accept and embrace what you perceive to be your worst flaws.
- Practice self-compassion to naturally boost your self-esteem.
For more tips on how to be more body-positive, check out these 7 simple and realistic ways to improve your body image.
Photo Credit: Franck Michel