Who Is Influencing Your Body Image?
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To the media consumer,
How do you “know” what is considered “good-looking,” the “perfect body,” what to buy, what is popular, what to eat, what to listen to, and what to watch? The media heavily influences our cultural ideas and consumer habits. But if you are a follower of Jesus, should the media be your greatest influence?
As Jesus followers in everything we do, we must look to Christ. Our value, our image, everything comes from and should point to Him. ~ CLICK TO TWEET
Thankfully, we have God's Word which is our principal source of truth for our beliefs and guidance on how to live. ~ CLICK TO TWEET
A lot of the time, the media contradicts biblical truths, especially when it comes to body image and self-worth.
Further, are the media’s portrayals always accurate? Of course not! The media is filled intentionally and unintentionally with biases which can lead to many unrealistic portraits of body image. Some of the effects according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) include "women’s body dissatisfaction, thin-ideal internalization, and disordered eating" and "Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men." (National Eating Disorders Association, 2014). Additionally, the same NEDA article states "This effect may suggest that long-term exposure during childhood and adolescence lays the foundation for the adverse effects of media during early adulthood" (2014). This last statement is really disheartening, especially as a mother of a little girl, her generation, and future generations will only be bombarded by the media more and more.
So importantly then, we must remember the Amor of God, we have to be on offense. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God speaks, holiness, truth, and power. We have to remember who God says we are, not who the media says we are and who we should be.
Sword of the Spirit, Offense
Let's talk some truth, let's look at what God says about you and about body image.
First, you were made in the image of God ~ Genesis 1:27, just let that sink in. God is beauty and created beauty and you were created in His image! Use some deductive reasoning :).
God looks at you and sees a rare and beautiful treasure that He loves deeply.
"Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you." ~ Isaiah 43:4
The Bible also says that you are His masterpiece, Ephesians 2:10 states,
"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."
Yes, you read that right, look in the mirror and tell yourself that in Jesus, you are a masterpiece of the Creator.
God doesn't just see your outward appearance; He sees your heart. And a faithful and serving heart is astoundingly beautiful and never fades. God sees and loves your inner beauty.
"But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised." ~ Proverbs 31:30
"Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." 1 Peter 3:3-4
Your body is not your own. You are a glorious temple of the Holy Ghost. Understand this, Christ is dwelling within you! Let this knowledge transform your body image!
"Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself," ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19
Finally, my beautiful sister, trade in your self-confidence for God-confidence. You are valuable, worthy, and perfected in Christ Jesus! ~ CLICK TO TWEET
... Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
1 Corinthians 10:12 MSG
It takes work, but we have to remember Who and where our influence, confidence, and worth must come from. This is serious stuff! We have to know in our hearts and minds God's truth. Write these verses down, place them on your mirror. Speak these truths out loud to yourself, your friends and family, and particularly to your children.
The Sword of the Spirit is the foundation of our warfare with the enemy, the base to maintain our defenses against media influence.
Critically Analyze the Media, Defense
It is doubtful that we can entirely escape media influence, and as we discussed, our main offense against media's influence is the sword of the Spirit, additionally,
it is important to understand how to critically analyze the media to become conscious consumers and promote and advocate for positive and accurate body images.
The Media Education Foundation (MEF) provides six steps involved in becoming a critical media viewer click here to read them all. I will mention two.
All media images and messages were created meticulously for a particular purpose. They were intentionally made. Was the intention to sell you something, to make you feel a certain emotion, to make you want or desire something?
One of the six steps the MEF outlines is to compare media images and depictions to your reality. Does your reality look like the reality in media messages and images? Probably not. Media reality is often exaggerated and unrealistic. Checking media against your environment is such a great tip to make a note of. All six of the steps outlined by the MEF would be beneficial to talk about with your children.
The MEF also provides 20 ways that you can engage in media advocacy, you can read that here. Some of the engagement activities include being conscious of what media you choose to occupy yourself with, voice your opinions and concerns with others, advocate media literacy and education in local schools, and "vote with media issues in mind" (MEF 2014). Some additional resources the article suggests are the books Rich Media, Poor Democracy by Robert McChesney and The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian.
Sites on Health and Body Image for Girls and Women
Here are some quality curated sources for more information on teen health, body image, and media literacy:
- 4 Girls Health
- About Face
- Academy for Eating Disorders
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
- American Psychiatric Association (APA)
- Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. (ANRED)
- Beauty Redefined
- Compared to Who?
- Center for Media Literacy
- Center for Science in the Public Interest - Nutrition Policy
- Dying to be Thin
- Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action
- Eating Disorder Recovery Center
- Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
- ECRI Institute
- Faith and Health Connection
- Grace Alliance
- In the Mix, Self Image, The Fantasy, The Reality
- International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
- Media Education Foundation
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
- National Eating Disorders Association
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center
- National Women’s Health Information Center
- Perfect Illusions
- Project Heal
- Pure Intimacy
- Self-Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E.) Alternatives
- Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
- Something Fishy
- Teen Aware: Sex, Media, and You
- To Write Love on Her Arms
- Unmask. Mind Over Media
- Youth Violence
Sister, you do not have to live for the acceptance and approval of the media or social media. You do not have to be subjected to the influence of the media or social media. Let God's truth influence your life. And remember,
"We don't live for God's approval. We live from His approval" (Pastor Craig, 2017).
The media may tell you that you're not enough, you need to be skinnier, fitter, curvier, prettier, more successful, smarter, or whatever, but the truth is only Christ is enough. All you need is Him, let Him be the LORD of your life. Let His light shine, because that is the true beauty.
Check local library listing for Rich Media, Poor Democracy through WorldCat
Check local library listing for The Media Monopoly through WorldCat
Yours Truly, LeNae
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All information provided on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued should not replace seeking professional help or substitute professional guidelines. I am not a health, mental, nutritional, or fitness professional. The FDA has not approved any advice or statements made on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued. Any information found on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition. Please consult a professional before engaging in any activity suggested on this Blog, social media, or any other material issued.
Life.Church. Pastor Craig, "I'm Confident." Accessed August 8. https://www.life.church/watch/stay-positive/im-confident/.
Media Education Foundation (MEF). 2005. “How to be a Critical Media Viewer.” Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.mediaed.org/Handouts/CriticalViewing.pdf.
—. 2014. “20 Ways to Be a Media Activist.” Accessed April 30. http://www.mediaed.org/Handouts/20-Ways.pdf.
National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA). 2014. “Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders.” Accessed April 30. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/media-body-image-and-eating-disorders.
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