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Minds on


Media Messages

We are surrounded by media messages that try to convince us that there is one perfect body type for a man and for a woman, when that’s just not the case. What kind of an impact does that have on people? 

Remember, most of what we see in the media is designed to sell us something. Some companies try to convince you to buy their products by getting you to associate positive ideas with their brand. While it might have a great message, it’s still trying to sell you something.

A more common strategy used by advertisers is creating a sense of insecurity so that you will think you need their product. This can have negative implications for a person’s positive sense of self and their body image which can then affect their mental health.

Now have a look at the next video. This one is by Dove.  As you are watching, ask yourself how you feel about yourself when looking at advertisements featuring flawless and idealized male and female bodies.


This is the discussion icon. Photoshopping and Body Image

After viewing the video, respond to the following discussion prompts: 

  1. What did you notice that the photoshopper changed about the model's appearance?
  2. Which elements did the photoshopper focus on? 
  3. When you see advertisements containing "perfect" looking models, do you think about the photoshopping that's been done? 
  4. Do you think most teens compare themselves to these images or do you think they disregard them? Why?
  5. How do you think someone who is influenced by these images would be made to feel?
  6. What would you say to a friend who you knew was being negatively affected by these images?


What is Body Image?

Photograph Covergirl's first male spokesmodel James Charles.
James Charles broke barriers by becoming Covergirl's first male spokesmodel.
by CoverGirl

When we talk about body image we're often talking about our feelings about our bodies' physical appearance. It's important to remember though that every body is different. A person's appearance is influenced by genetics and so even if the same two people ate the same things and exercised the same way, they could have very different results. There is no one ideal body type. The ideal weight for an individual is the weight that allows that individual to feel strong and energetic and lets him or her lead a healthy life. It's unfair and unrealistic to compare your body to those of your friends or the bodies of models and actors you see in the media. 

Positive Body Image versus Negative Body Image

This is a graphic that shows positive body image points and negative body image points.
Long Description

Body Image and Mental Health

Our concept of body image is shaped by many factors such as peer pressure, society, culture, as well as comments from family, friends, and others about our bodies. Self-esteem has an impact on how we interpret those messages from our culture, the media, and people around us. Low self-esteem can lead to misperceptions and negative beliefs about our bodies.

Sometimes these social factors, along with having a negative body image, can lead to serious disorders such as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), muscle dysmorphia or an eating disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder is an over-preoccupation with an “imagined” physical defect in appearance while muscle dysmorphia is the over-preoccupation with the perception or feeling that one’s muscles are too small or too weak. Disordered eating behaviours are associated with a preoccupation with appearance and an attempt to change body size through a focus on diets.


Tips for Boosting Body Image

Here are some tips for boosting your body image from kidshealth.org:

  • Recognize that your body is your own, no matter what shape or size it comes in. 
  • Identify which aspects of your appearance you can realistically change and which you can't.   
  • If there are things about yourself that you want to change and can, do this by making goals for yourself. 
  • When you hear negative comments coming from within, tell yourself to stop. 
  • Try building your self-esteem by giving yourself three compliments every day.  

This is the discussion icon. Tips for Boosting Body Image

Visit kidshealth.org to read more about how to boost body image.

This is the dropbox icon. Positive Body Image

Just as media can impact us negatively, other media images and words can be inspiring and help us focus on the positive rather than the negative self-talk that we sometimes do.

Your task is to create an Instagram feed, Pinterest board, or collage of at least 10 images that inspire you to think positively about your body and help you respond effectively to those factors that influence you. (You don’t have to actually use your personal Instagram or Pinterest accounts to create this. You can just paste images into a Google Doc or Word doc).  

Look for images and quotes that remind you...

  • to have a realistic perception of your body;
  • to appreciate your body the way it is;
  • to focus on what your body can do--not what it can't;
  • that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes;
  • that your worth as a person is not based on your physical appearance;
  • include images or quotes that reinforce at least 3 of the tips for Boosting Body Image that you read about in this activity or at kidshealth.org.

Use the following checklist to make sure you've met the expectations for this task.

Image Collage Success Criteria

Criteria Got it! I need to add it! How I will add it to meet the criteria?

I have selected 10 images.


Some of my images convey the message of having a realistic perception of your body; that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes.


Some of my images convey the message to appreciate your body the way it is.


Some of my images convey the message to focus on what your body can do--not what it can't; that your worth as a person is not based on your physical appearance.


My Image collage includes quotes that reinforce at least 3 of the tips for Boosting Body Image.


In my brief paragraph, I have explained why I selected a form of media text.


I have explained why the form of media text I selected is an appropriate choice for my audience.


I have explained the techniques I chose to communicate my message to my audience.


I have explained how the images and quotes inspire me.


When you are finished, write a brief paragraph explaining the following:

  1. why you chose the media you did; 
  2. who your audience is for the media; 
  3. one or two features that you used to appeal to your audience; 
  4. how the images and quotations that you chose inspire you. 

Warning Signs 

Body image is just one of the many factors that can impact mental health. Mental health includes our emotional, mental social and spiritual well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. When someone is not doing well mentally or emotionally it can affect many areas of their daily life. How do you know that someone may be struggling with a mental health issue? If a person you know is showing some of these warning signs, they may have a serious mental health problem:

Illustration of a yellow and black sign saying WARNING.
  • getting significantly lower marks in school;
  • avoiding friends and family;
  • having frequent outbursts of anger;
  • changes to sleeping or eating habits;
  • acting out or rebelling against authority;
  • drinking a lot and/ or using drugs;
  • not doing the things he or she used to enjoy;
  • worrying constantly;
  • experiencing frequent mood swings;
  • not concerned with his or her appearance;
  • obsessed with his or her weight
  • lacking energy or motivation;
  • increased risk-taking behaviour;
  • feeling very down;
  • feeling highly self-conscious.


Checking In

Now that we know some of the warning signs of someone with mental health concerns, think about how you might support people when they are dealing with a difficult situation. Who would you suggest someone might talk to help them resolve their situation and help rebuild their positive mental health?

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