Less pressure means a better body image

Women who have less pressure placed on their appearance tend to have a more positive body image, new research has suggested. Published online in Springer's journal Sex Roles, the study revealed family support can also play a key role in helping females feel better about the way they look.

Dr Shannon Snapp of the University of Arizona in the US and her colleagues discovered those who had strong backing from their loved ones and less socio-cultural expectations placed on them looking thin and beautiful had a positive physical self-concept.

It was also shown that these women did not look up to the superwoman ideal and were better equipped to cope with stress.

The authors wrote: "It is particularly important for women to develop a sense of self-worth that is not solely based on appearance."

They added it is beneficial for young women to build a resilience to pressure from a number of different people, including the media, friends and family. 

Dr Ruth Lowry, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "The authors conclude that a woman should develop her self-worth from a wider range of facets other than appearance. This has always been a fascination for body image researchers.

"Given that our sense of worth can be derived from our intelligence, sense of humour, nurturance, job competence, relationships, morality, athletic competence in addition to appearance, why does this one component of self, seem to have such debilitating effects?

"Ken Fox, in his book The Physical Self, describes the disproportionate influence of the body: 'The physical self has occupied a unique position in the self-system because the body, through its appearance, attributes and abilities provides the substantive interface between the individual and the world.' 

"People have an innate need to compare themselves to others across most aspects of life. This internal rating of self through social comparisons allows the individual to assess their abilities and competencies, 'I'm above average in my sporting ability', 'I'm not as good at most at singing' etc.

"In relation to appearance, the study refers the socio-cultural expectations that women experience as a result of the media's narrow and arguably unattainable representation of the female ideal. These sorts of comparisons can produce a range of responses such as aspiration, motivation, envy and a reminder of their own shortcomings. The support of other people can help individuals to interpret their responses to this information through positive role-modelling, emotional support and accurate information."