CW: This article discusses topics of body image and eating disorders.
What is body dysmorphia?
Body dysmorphic disorder or often referred to as body dysmorphia is a mental health condition that makes an individual become obsessed with their appearance. The obsessive tendency to constantly worry about the individual's physical appearance may also cause harm to other parts of their life. When someone has body dysmorphia, they may often find themselves repeatedly analysing and critiquing their physique in the mirror. In a nutshell, to have body dysmorphia is the ideology of never being satisfied with your image. If an individual is so fixated on their body image that it negatively impacts their day-to-day life, they should be urged to seek medical advice as body dysmorphia can lead to eating disorders.
Why humans are influenced by others around them
Humans are social creatures, and we are naturally hardwired into comparing ourselves to others around us. These traits of human comparison can be found and dated back thousands of years ago which was necessary in order to climb the social hierarchy. This article suggests:
"comparison can also help us become more successful, if we harness them correctly".
I believe the emphasis on harnessing them correctly is important when discussing body dysmorphia. Although influencers and people around us do help to motivate others to become better people, in some cases, it can have a negative effect and impact though.
How influencers cause body dysmorphia
Within the fitness industry, those who stand out the most are often those with incredible physiques. The individuals who achieved these physiques worked very hard for them and should be proud to share what they have made of themselves.
Some of the main big influencers within the fineness industry are Chris Bumstead who is a Canadian IFBB professional bodybuilder, Matt Does Fitness who is known for being a successful YouTuber and doing fitness challenges, as well as Kayla Itsines who has almost 15 million followers on Instagram.
Many people who earn a living from posting fitness content for their fans to see end up setting unrealistic goals for people. Often, many influencers will not state if they are using performance-enhancing drugs, thus suggesting they are natural and have achieved their physique through hard work and determination. However, there have been many cases where influencers have been caught lying about being a natural athletes. The issue with this is that people who follow a fitness influencer end up looking up to them and in some cases idolise them. They, therefore, believe that they can achieve similar results. Although this is false and misleading to their fanbase, they are causing people to have body dysmorphia as they are unable to achieve the results they seek and therefore critique their bodies too much.
How social media plays a factor
The human brain hasn't biologically changed in thousands of years, however, the environment that humans are in has changed drastically and continues to change. One of these changes is the internet and social media in general.
People enjoy partaking in exercise and fitness in order to help improve their mental state and increase overall confidence. However, people always spend a huge amount of time on social media these days, in which they see a very small selection of people who will either have very good genetics or enhanced strength and size through abuse of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs). When people consistently view content like this, consciously even if the person may not be aware, it will eventually ruin one's perception of what is and isn't a realistic goal for themselves. People will begin to compare their bodies to others and create a huge expectation gap that starts the process of body dysmorphia.
Furthermore, seeing as influencers earn a living on social media, they need their content to stand out from others, so they would edit and photoshop their images in order to look more aesthetically pleasing, which creates an artificial reality of what they actually look like in person. Influencers will photoshop their pictures, claim to be natural athletes and deny any accusations, as at the end of the day, they need to create a good brand image in order to attract sponsorships and earn a good living. Their last thought is how their content would affect others viewing it.
How to fight body dysmorphia
Every year, it becomes harder not to compare yourself to others on social media and the internet. This is why there is a movement called body neutrality that lies in between body positivity and body negativity towards oneself. The goal of body neutrality is to allow people not to be so harsh on themselves and over-critique their physiques. This would aid in teaching the individual to pursue love and respect for themselves instead of hatred and shame for their bodies. Finally, to be body neutral is the outlook on life and yourself that looks do not add or take away any positivity from an individual's life and that there is much more value than just aesthetics.