Teenage girls everywhere are under constant pressure to have a body which is acceptable by society. Many aspects of society make females feel shameful of their body, leading to a negative body image. This study will determine exactly which aspects of society cause a teenage girl to think poorly of their body. If those influential factors are discovered, we can prevent teenage girls from shaming their bodies. In order to do so, I have conducted a survey and surveyed a population of fourteen teenage girls, ages fifteen to seventeen years old. The survey included a variety of questions which determined exactly what we needed to find out.
It was discovered that the main reason that teenage girls feel as if their body is unacceptable to society is because of media and their own perception of their body. If society is always comparing us to those who are better, we are obviously going to look down upon ourselves. From the data found in the surveys, we know exactly what causes teenage girls to have a negative body image and what effect that has on their well-being.
Negative Body Image and Teen Girls
Shame. Guilt. Depression. These are just a few of the emotions that young women experience after spending only three minutes looking at models in fashion magazines(DeLeeuw, 2013). Teen girls all over the world are constantly struggling with their body image, attempting to keep up with the latest trends while maintaining peace with who they are. By studying negative body image we can find out what factors influence someone to think poorly about their body. If a cause is found then we can stop teen girls from looking at their body in such a negative way. A question that needs to be answered is: how does one develop a negative body image?
Media is an large influential factor that causes teen girls to shape and distort their perceptions of their bodies. The media creates unrealistically thin body ideals which results in teen girls wanting to look similar to photoshopped models, celebrities, etc. Media can be influential in many different ways: television, magazines, internet, advertisements, etc(Piran, 2000). Media over-exaggerates and causes an over-concern with weight. Young women are already dealing with enough stress through school, work, peers and family, there is no need to unnecessarily worry about their body image. Unfortunately, media is everywhere and causes a constant anxiety in teen girls to have a “perfect body”.
On a similar note, fashion trends cause young women to feel as if they should alter their body so that they can wear a certain style. Recently, crop tops and high waisted shorts have been “in”. This could cause teen girls to want to rapidly lose weight in order to feel comfortable in these trends. Unfortunately, fashion delivers an upsetting fantasy of a skinny young girl. Not often do we see overweight girls modeling clothes, it is often young women who look as if they are underweight. This causes teen girls idolize how the models do in the same clothes, again leading to rapid weight loss and other unhealthy habits.
Since our society is so obsessed with image and having a good body, many young women resort to dieting methods which lead to body dysmorphic disorders. A surprising amount of teen girls are affected by eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia, extreme dieting, or crash dieting. Eating disorders are commonly misunderstood, as they are actually mental illnesses and often have nothing to do with the consumption of food. Eating disorders are mostly a psychological issue which makes an individual see her body as bigger than she actually is. Since she is seeing herself as overweight, she may turn to a form of dieting which is not healthy. Eating disorders most often result in weight loss at an unhealthy rate; however, some may have an eating disorder which is not physically visible but is experienced mentally. Body dysmorphic disorders can be developed because of either psychological, biological or environmental factors(Katz, 2012).
Specific aspects of society put pressure onto teen girls to have a body that reflects the unrealistic expectations of society today, resulting in young women feeling poorly about themselves.
In order to collect data and find similarities and differences, I conducted a survey and distributed it to classmates. The survey consisted of a series of multiple choice and open ended questions in order to determine how teen girls felt about their body and the influential factors. I surveyed a total of fourteen teenage females who attend Lester B. Pearson High School. Their ages ranged from fifteen-seventeen years of age. I chose this population because these ages and this gender were relevant to the information in which I am studying and analyzing. The data was then analyzed by contrasting and comparing the results from each survey. I chose the questions that I found most relevant the my research topic to analyze.
Analyzing the data gave a further understanding of the topics. The first one being: “Are you happy with your body?”. After comparing each individual answer, 65% of those surveyed answered with “no”. Another question that I analyzed was: “have you ever gone on a diet to change the way you look?”. I discovered that 72% of those surveyed answered with “yes”. The survey included a series of nine images of body types, numbers one and two being underweight. I asked “if you could change your body, which of these figures would you want to look like?”. Once looking at the answers that those surveyed gave, 50% of the participants answered with either one or two, stating that they wished they had an underweight body.
After surveying a population, many facts have been observed which will contribute to the research topic of negative body image of teenage girls. Teenage girls are willing to do many harmful things to their bodies in order to please “society”. Society puts so much pressure on young women to have the ideal body and to conform to everyone else. My findings have confirmed my hypothesis, and have shown how significant my topic is to many females in today’s world. However, that “perfect body” is nearly impossible. There will always be something to fix, something to change, society will never be pleased. After conducting the survey, the results were a helpful contribution to the research topic because it gave real world examples of negative body image. It showed how teen girls are impacted so harshly by society, media and even by themselves. This could be due to many reasons: the individual’s own perception of their body, peer pressure, pressure from family or media; however, the majority of those surveyed said that the biggest cause of their body image concerns were due to the perception they had of their own body.
This directly informs us that teen girls put so much pressure on themselves to have a “perfect body” that it leads them to constantly view their body in a detrimental way. The majority of participants were unhappy with their body and would be willing to go to certain extremes to change some features, through things such as dieting. Crash diets can be an example of these extremes, being an unhealthy way to rapidly lose weight. Before surveying the population, we did not have an exact understanding as to what caused teenage girls to think negatively of their body.
The fact that their own perception of their body is the leading reason just proves how much pressure not only media puts on girls, but also they themselves do. They should not be putting this much pressure onto themselves, it will eventually cause them to break down. Rather than giving teenage girls advertisements with perfectly thin and fit females, we should be giving them advertisements with women of all shapes and sizes. This way, they are not comparing themselves to a supermodel with an unrealistic body. The survey furthered our knowledge on this topic by giving us a real world example as to how teenage girls feel about the pressures they have in order to achieve a socially acceptable body.
This research topic is important and beneficial to our knowledge because it gives a deeper understanding of what causes a teenage girl to think negatively of her body. We now know what steps we can take in order to boost one’s self-esteem. Society should be praising teenage girls for their body so that they can feel comfortable in their own skin, rather than providing a supermodel with an unrealistic model to compare themselves to. These supermodels clearly impact teenage girls, as we discovered that 50% wish they had an underweight body. Not only is media causing pressure, but trends are a contributing factor. Teenage girls are constantly wanting to fit in with current fashion trends and are willing to go to certain extremes in order to achieve a body that will look good wearing these clothes.
The constant pressure to have a perfect body can cause teenage girls to resort to unhealthy ways of getting that dream body. There is a possibility of a teenage girl developing a body dysmorphic order, because of the constant pressure to have a socially acceptable body. She could resort to dieting methods such as crash dieting, or could induce vomitting, also known as bulimia. Society needs to make a conscious effort in order to make teenage girls feel proud of their body, no matter what shape or size. Each and every girl is beautiful in their own way, and should not feel the need to change their body in order to please society.