For anyone who'd maybe been hoping that body image among teenage girls was slowly but surely improving in recent decades, we unfortunately have some bad news. According to Glamour magazine's 2014 Body Image Survey, women today actually tend to feel worse about their appearance than they did when Glamour did their first body image survey in 1984. So that's cheerful.
According to the survey, which polled 1,000 American women between the ages of 18 and 40, 54 percent of women today report feeling unhappy with their bodies. In 1984, only 41 percent said the same. And while women both then and now say losing weight is the thing that would make them the happiest, the number of women who picked that option has increased. Today, 54 percent of women pick losing weight as their number one happiness boost; 30 years ago only 42 percent of women said the same.
And it seems that these feeling affect everyone, not just women who are overweight. Even among participants at a healthy weight, 49 percent say that they were "too fat." Additionally, 64 percent of respondents say that looking at pictures on social media makes them feel unhappy with their body, and fully 80 percent say that looking in the mirror makes them feel bad.
So that all sucks.
As for guys, it turns out that body image stuff does affect them, too, but not as much. Only about a third of men reported that they felt unsatisfied with their bodies, and they were less likely to let those worries bother them, according to the study.
...that sounds about right.
So, even after all these years of trying to teach young women to love their bodies and not subscribe to unrealistic beauty standards, why hasn't anything gotten any better? Well, probably because media portrayals haven't gotten any better. After all, we're still inundated with images of thin, beautiful women everywhere we go — movies, television, magazines, billboards, even video games. There's no escaping it. And it hasn't improved. In fact, it might have even gotten worse in recent decades.
Plus, we now have a whole new source of images to compare ourselves to: social media. Because as much as I love social media, that whole "compar[ing] our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel" thing.
The moral of the story of course is that we need to start promoting healthier body image in our society — by which I mean not just saying that it's important but by actually making changes to the way our media operates. Because until that starts happening, having a positive body image is just going to keep getting harder and harder as media infiltrates more and more of our lives.
And in the mean time, it never hurts to broadcasting positivity, so even though it is no longer swimsuit season, I will remind everyone of this:
Let us never forget.