What Is The Impact Of Constant Attention To Our Appearance?

Let's explain this statement, because it is from the American Psychological Association and we know it is not a popular idea.  

Research studies have consistently revealed that spending time and energy primarily focusing on your body can lead to a decrease in mental resources. For example, in one study, college students were asked to try on and evaluate a one-piece swimsuit or sweater that they were wearing. After waiting for 10 minutes they completed a math test. Women who wore swimsuits performed significantly worse on the math test than those who were wearing sweaters. No differences were found in the men's performances on the math test. 

In another study, researchers wanted to examine how women who were self-objectifying responded to a simple colour-naming task. Women again were asked to wear a swimsuit or sweater. After, women were told to look in a mirror and think about how the clothing made them feel about their self, and their identity. Next, women completed "I am" word stem questions, and participated in a simple colour naming task, and filled out a variety of questionnaires. Results showed that women in the swimsuit condition (and not the sweater condition) performed worse on the simple colour naming task and that they felt more defined by their bodies.

So what does this all mean? 

Does this mean spending any time in front of the mirror or that wanting to feel beautiful is problematic or bad? Absolutely not. 

What these studies highlight is that spending too much attention on our bodies/appearance can limit available mental energy to devote to other important mental and physical activities. So, regardless of whether you already have a positive relationship with your body or are still struggling to get there, the take away message is:

a) Realize you are a whole person who has so much more to offer than your appearance. 

b) Chronic attention and energy invested in our physical appearance has real-life implications. 

b) Focusing on things beyond our appearance will enable us to invest mental and physical energy to cultivate other strengths, talents, and internal characteristics to grow and develop a rich, authentic identity.