Comparing yourself to others really DOES harm self-image

  10 May 2018    Read: 1436
Comparing yourself to others really DOES harm self-image

It's no secret that women often feel worse about their bodies when they compare them to other, skinnier women, but now a study has found evidence of it.

Researchers from several UK institutions found that when women of 'normal' weight look at pictures of skinny women, they feel less positive about their own bodies, the Daily Mail reported.

The group conducted two experiments with female volunteers, in which they asked them to rate their bodies and then look at pictures of other women. 

Afterwards, they were given chocolate and asked to rate their bodies again. 

The researchers tested the degree of body dissatisfaction in the volunteers by measuring how much chocolate each of the volunteers consumed afterward.

In the first experiment, 90 women with 'normal' bodies (BMI between 22 and 23) were broken up into three groups and asked to look at photographs of different sized women. 

What they didn't know is that they were actually photographs of women in the group that had been edited to make them look heavier or skinnier.

The second experiment was identical to the first, except it was only volunteers who identified as having high body dissatisfaction.

The researchers found that women in both groups were more critical of their own bodies after viewing photos of skinny women, but not after viewing the 'normal' or heavier people.

The women also reported seeing their own bodies and those of 'normal' weight as being smaller after viewing pictures of heavier women.  

They also found no change in the amount of chocolate eaten regardless of what the women viewed.

The researchers believe that their results indicate that advertisers using images of abnormally thin people contribute to body dissatisfaction in women. 

Switching to models of normal weight, they suggest, would likely help women feel better about their bodies. Such a change might help curb rising obesity rates, they believe.


Perceptions of the ideal female body can be linked to representations of women in media, whether found in pop culture, fashion or even politics.

These images of feminine attractiveness have changed significantly over the years.

1910 The Gibson Girl - An image produced by American graphic artist Charles Dana Gibson depicted the ideal female figure as tall and regal with an S-curve torso shape

1920 The Flapper - Cultural change sparked by the suffragette movement gave birth to short hair, knee length dresses and a more rambunctious, yet petite, view of female beauty

1950 The Hourglass - Voluptuous curves became important following the end of WWII, which also saw the creation of one of the most influential female bodies, Barbie

1960 The Twig - British cultural icon and model Twiggy brought forward an androgynous look in female ideals where small breasts and thinness were key

1990 Heroin Chic - Supermodels like Kate Moss bring their thin grunge looks to the runway

Today - Muscular and toned bodies are preferred over slim figures

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