How We See Others, How We See Ourselves

Eating disorders and low self-esteem are just two of the problems that have been linked to media exposure for adolescent girls. We often see ourselves not in light of our own strengths and attributes, but in light of the perceived strengths and attributes of others. While counselors and psychotherapists do treat a number of males and younger children for eating disorders, it’s still true that adolescent females are particularly vulnerable to low self-image based on perceived appearance expectations.

Much of the focus around mental health, body image, and self-esteem for young females places blame on the media. Airbrushed photos, dangerously underweight models, and celebrities who brazenly participate in harmful behavior create an environment that glorifies dangerous and unhealthy choices, so the understanding goes. But researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel have identified a media-age influence that may be even more harmful to girls’ psyche than the media itself: Facebook. The more time adolescent girls spend on Facebook, the greater their chances of developing various eating disorders and negative body image. Researchers found similar trends in television, movies, and fashion media, but none as pronounced as Facebook.

This isn’t the first study to find that generous Facebook use corresponds with lower sense of life-satisfaction, but it is the first to focus specifically on body image issues severe enough to require therapy. Social networking has also been found to exacerbate depression and anxiety in teens.

However, it’s not just comparing ourselves to others that influences how we measure self-worth. How others look at us—literally—can actually influence how we perform on tests. In a recently-published study, women who were subjected to “the objectifying gaze” from men did worse on math tests after being ogled. Being singled out for good looks may actually trigger girls to place more value on their looks and underperform academically as a result, the researchers say.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • V B

    V B

    February 11th, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    It’s always the same isn’t it-We humans are never content with what we have and what we are. We just try to be something other than what we are although the something else is most usually an illusion. The grass ALWAYS seems greener on the other side!

  • Mark

    Mark

    February 12th, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    Weird how something that started as a way to keep you connected to friends has now become a place where online teasing and bullying has too become so prevalent.

  • Julie Kinnear

    Julie Kinnear

    February 12th, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    But the research was carried out only in Israel so it still remains a question whether the results can be applied to people using Facebook in other countries.

  • Charlotte

    Charlotte

    February 13th, 2011 at 5:36 AM

    When are we going to learn that it is never going to make us feel good when we continue to compare ourselves to others? We should hold ourselves up to our own expectations for us and celebrate our own accomplishments, not get all bent out of shape if we feel we do not measure up to someone else.

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