Girls and boys alike have been subjected to the pressures put on by society today to look a certain way. Through the media, peers, and family, teens have suffered body image issues on many different levels, and Dr. Steffenson explains how this strive to perfection is not necessary when so many different body types are desired by so many different people––that there is no ideal body.
Teenage girls suffer from various body image issues, and they can be for several different reasons. “What I see from girls is competition with others or inside of themselves,” said Steffenson, “It can start at home, and then move into competing with each other. The media does a number on females too, because everybody you see is paper thin. The more severe it is, the more it has to do with perfection.”
While it is typically easier to get to the bottom of girls’ body image issues, boys suffer from them as well. “Guys definitely have body image issues, and it has increased since when I was growing up,” said Steffenson, “Now we look at TV and everybody is ripped. And we’re like ‘okay, is that realistic?’ It could be hard for them because their thoughts are more internalized – they may subconsciously think about looking like that.”
Steffenson explains reasons for the lack of talk when it comes to boys and their body image. “Guys have a pride thing, they’re supposed to say, ‘I don’t have problems, and I don’t care,’” said Steffenson, “But the more open you are, the more you find somebody who is safe to share things with, and better things are going to be for you. Sometimes its easier for guys to talk individually rather than the groups we have at school.”
A large part of the self conscious nature of today’s teens is that they focus in on one thing that matters more to them than others actually notice. “There’s different parts of peoples bodies they can’t stand, its like you focus in on it, and cant fix it and get obsessed. Perceptions get skewed and don’t see yourself the way other people might see you,” said Steffenson.
Steffenson mentions that the desire for girls and boys to make themselves perfect is hard to comprehend, because so many peple like differnt things. “Everybody thinks guy are attracted to one type, that’s not true at all,” said Steffenson, “Guys, just like girls, are attracted to different things and people, and in the end as in regards to relationships, it may be an initial attraction but those things only last so long, and what type of person you are is important.”
A major condition of body image issues is eating disorders. “Eating disorders usually revolve around control and perfection. Whether these be problems at home or school, this is a way to control things,” said Steffenson, “and actually, one in every ten eating disorders is that of a boy. The the most I have seen are coming from people who push themselves too hard – those getting straight A’s, the homecoming queens, the awesome athletes, etc.”
Steffenson explained the fine line between what some consider ‘getting fit’ and others consider dangerous. “Its healthy to work out an hour a day and make sure you’re eating right,” said Steffenson, “but when you’re working out obsessively two to three hours a day or hardly eating, it becomes a problem. In so many ways, people don’t feel good enough, and one of the most obvious is their bodies.”
The strive for this ideal body seen in magazines or insisted on by others has become a widely known problem in today’s society, and there is no way to stop it, except for through acceptance of reality. “I think that main point of body image issues is that most people are looking at things that don’t matter as much as they think they do. It will come down to the values you have, how you want to be, what you believe in, things like that,” said Steffenson,” Its about accepting that you don’t have to be the best at everything. It’s impossible.”