Frame of Mind
CNHS students use their teenage experiences to focus on the concept of body image and define what it means to be comfortable in their own skin
The character Dracula has no reflection in the mirror, an indication of his supernatural identity. The Evil Queen in “Snow White” appeals to her own vanity as she demands to mirror to declare her the fairest in the land. The looking glass, however, extends beyond literature into the real world of homes, stores and schools alike. In reality, there are no magical talking mirrors or vampires with no reflection, but the effect they have on the people looking upon them is still reminiscent of that in literature. For humans and fairytale characters alike, their reflection in the mirror can alter how they perceive themselves. For some, the glass portrays an individual comfortable in his or her own skin. Others break under the swelling pressure of societal expectations as they stare in the mirror. Their image may change with time, sometimes becoming as distorted and unrecognizable as jagged shards of shattered glass, a product of one’s opinion of oneself. Internal and external pressures can play a role in this perception, turning the vision in the mirror against the viewer. Junior Lauren Grider has experienced the effects of a negative self-image first hand. Diagnosed with orthorexia her eighth grade year, Grider’s habits deviated towards the characteristic behavior of this sports-based subset of anorexia months prior.
“It was over the summer, and we were at dance nationals. I was watching and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, all these girls look so good,’” Grider said. “[I was] just like, ‘I want to be like that because I wanted to be able to dance better, and I wanted to be prettier.’”
Columbus North Centerstone Representative Abby Persinger has worked with students who share a similar mindset to that of Grider. Having studied the psychological effects of these thoughts, Persinger accredits social media for fueling them.
“Social media has portrayed women as needing to be a size zero, perfect hair, perfect skin, wearing the cutest outfits,” Persinger said. “Girls will look at these images on TV shows and magazines and commercials and feel like they need to look like that.”
Similar to Persinger, junior Zoe Dougherty recognizes the impact that social media has on an individual’s self-image, as she uses her own social media platform to share her opinion about body positivity.
“According to society, [the ideal body is] probably skinny and thick, but I think everyone should have their own positive body image about themselves,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty admits that she too struggles with body image, thus encouraging her to use the internet to spread positivity.
“My sister is a cheerleader, and she’s super skinny, and she is very confident in who she is because she can pull off basically anything,” Dougherty said. “I have never been able to do that, and I know a lot of my friends and people in general struggle with the same thing.”
Grider can attest to the struggles of negative self-image, as she experienced the physical consequences of her eating disorder.
“I was so tired all the time because I wasn’t getting enough energy [and] nutrients,” Grider said. “Eventually, I started looking bad, [and] my mom told me I looked like I was dying.”
In addition to physical effects, some may experience negative psychological consequences, as well.
“You don’t think that anyone will want to like you. You will think ‘I hate myself, so why would anyone else like me?’” Persinger said. “You need to like yourself, so you feel like other people like you, and you’re not sitting there thinking they are judging you.”
Grider admits to isolating herself due to her own self judgment as Persinger described, which had a negative impact on her relationships.
“Eighth grade was not a good year for me. I closed myself off because I was so concerned about myself and being healthy,” Grider said. “A lot of my friends didn’t know what to do. They didn’t talk to me as much anymore, and I would get sad about that. I focused on homework and working out because that is what got my mind off of not having anyone.”
Persinger has also seen the effects of body image on relationships, seeing first hand how insecurities impact individuals.
“It is very important to have a positive view on your body because [a negative self image] can really lead to depression,” Persinger said. “If you don’t like yourself, how are you going to get up every day and look in the mirror and want to go to work and want to have a relationship or hang out with friends if you don’t even like yourself.”
From a social media perspective, editing out insecurities can cause followers to see a perceived perfect image of a person, further affecting the idea of body image.
“Maybe it’s not intentionally negative, but if someone posts a picture out there that is edited, or they change their body, it can make other people feel worse about themselves,” Dougherty said.
Grider has made efforts to alter her old perception of herself, changing her social media habits to create a positive mindset. Nevertheless, she still has moments of doubt.
“I still have some days were I’m like ‘Oh my gosh I look so bad’ because I have obviously gained weight since then, but it’s healthy weight,” Grider said.
Similar to Grider, Dougherty acknowledges that insecurities may continue to exist. However, she believes such doubts are insignificant as long as they do not affect one’s overall self-image.
“I think it is good for everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin,” Dougherty said. “If you are not the stereotypical, societal, positive body image, making that for yourself is really important”
For some, feeling comfortable in their own skin is wearing what makes them feel good. Sophomore Neel Deshpande, for example, believes that dressing nicely improves his self-image.
“I’m no Leo DiCaprio, but I’m fine with the way I look. I always try to dress well to look even better. Dress for success,” Deshpande said. “I guess looks matter to me, in terms of clothing and style. When I wear a dress shirt, or a blazer or a coat, I feel pretty awesome.”
Dougherty, however, believes that it is also important to create positivity even when one is in an outfit that doesn’t always generate confidence.
“I did a big post over the summer about swimsuits because I have never felt comfortable wearing a bikini in that type of way,” Dougherty said. “I wanted to put some positivity out there and be like ‘this is okay and looks great on anyone.’”
Differences create an opportunity to embrace body types.
“I have grown to realize that everyone has different body types, and they are made that way and are supposed to be that way,” Grider said. “I am more accepting of that now.”