Our culture tends to objectify both women’s and men’s bodies. It teaches us to see people as bodies (or objects) first and people second, which leads us to judge and value people by how they look. This leads to negative body image because we are taught that our bodies are the most important things about us and that we need to “fix our flaws” in order to be happy.
So many of us compare ourselves to social media influencers and celebrities who fit all of today’s ideals. What we don’t see is all the digital editing, styling, trainers, and cosmetic surgery that often goes into getting that look.
The objectifying messages in our culture tell us to think of our own bodies from an outside perspective, as though we were looking in at ourselves. This is called self-objectification. Studies show that when girls are self-conscious of their looks, they don’t do as well on math, reading, or physical fitness tests.
The pain of being objectified and thinking of yourself as an object often leads to eating disorders, anxiety, and depression and pushes people to cope in dangerous ways like self-harm, drug abuse, and unhealthy relationships. It causes people to stop participating in school and sports (like we did), serving others, and pursuing leadership opportunities.
Self-objectification is at the root of negative body image because it puts all the focus on how our bodies look rather than how we feel or what we can do. It prevents us from seeing ourselves as God sees us: as children of our Heavenly Parents with inherent, unchangeable value.