Jennifer Aniston's Blog Only Addresses The Tip Of The Iceberg

Do I develop a positive body image by actualizing the adage "love your body more," or should I resort to plastic surgery? 

Jennifer Aniston's thoughtfully penned essay on the objectification of women can be added to the growing list of important body conversations occurring; from London's mayor banning "body shaming ads," to Norwegian cities banning Photoshopped model ads, to Caitlyn Jenner and Demi Lovato describing how they overcame body image insecurities, to being #BodyPositive, body image is on our collective mind as a society. 

And while the focus on loosening the ironclad corset and giving breathing room for diverse bodies to be loved and appreciated is a big step in the right direction, something is still fundamentally missing in our well-intentioned conquest to develop a positive body image.

We are still missing the mark because why was more than $13.5 billion dollars(the highest grossing year to date) spent on cosmetic surgery for men and women in 2015?


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. 

What are we learning when we read "Who Wore It Better?"

Photo from Hollywood Life: Splashnews/Getty 

Photo from Hollywood Life: Splashnews/Getty 

We are socialized from a young age to compare ourselves against others. Magazines devote pages to these spreads such as "Who wore it best?" or "Who wore it better - celebrities in identical clothing?" where women are scrutinized and evaluated for their fashion choices and appearance. 

Why is this harmful? 

Research studies indicate that being in environments where someone's appearance is constantly talked about, or being compared to, will increase our body dissatisfaction. 

Additionally, consistently viewing images or engaging in appearance comparison behaviours can lead to an increase in self-objectification, where you treat yourself like an object to be looked an evaluated. 

We are so much more than ornaments to be adorned! We have so much more to offer than just our appearance. 

So, the next time you read a story about "Who wore this red-carpet dress best?" Or "Who wore this outfit better?"  we would encourage you to think about, who is benefiting and who is being harmed from women being pitted against each other?