Stereotypes and Self Esteem

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Body Image, Stereotypes and Self-Esteem
April 2, 2012
Social Psychology

In today’s society weight plays a major role in how a person is perceived. It also plays a major role in how we perceive ourselves. Attitudes towards body images and weight have remained consistent. Thinness is easily accepted while overweight people tend to be stereotyped. Millions of women every day are faced with what the media considers the “perfect” body. Oftentimes the images portrayed are unrealistic in terms of the “average” woman. According to, mediaa-awareness.com, “Researchers report that women’s magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women’s magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman’s bodily appearance—by diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.”

The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” and weighs 117 pounds. This can lead to the “average” woman feeling as though the way she looks isn’t good enough or that she isn’t pretty enough. Magazines spend millions and millions of dollars on diet and exercise advertisements seemingly portraying and comparing happiness with being thin. This leaves certain women feeling as though the way to happiness is by being thin. Pair the “new ideal” of body image with stereotypes about being overweight and there is a risk that individuals will try to achieve this ideal by any means necessary.

A study done by Field et al found that “70% of teen girls agreed that magazines strongly influenced what they thought was the ideal body type”. Do these perceptions lead to stereotypes about weight that can ultimately affect self-esteem in individuals? Is there pressure to be thin? Are overweight people more susceptible to self-esteem issues because of the many stereotypes about weight?

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