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"Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?"

Perhaps the wicked Queen in the fairy tale of Snow White was on to something. This inquisitive rhyme still clearly resounds today. Gazing into the mirror, we easily identify society's expectations, and as a result, our flaws. Why do they seem to so easily cut right through us? Without a doubt, all of us are unhappy with certain areas of our physical selves. But for some reason, we let that affect us until it defines us. We are constantly bombarded with messages from the media: television, movies, and magazines, that "thin is in" and in order to be accepted and valued, you must look, dress, and even smell, like this! How do we react to a culture that puts so much pressure on appearance?

What is body image?

Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror, or picture yourself in your mind. It is what you believe about your own appearance, and how you feel about your body. Actually, body image is based more on feeling than fact: it is centered around your perception of your physical self. Having a negative body image means seeing a distorted perception of your shape, feeling ashamed, self-conscious, and awkward on a regular basis. Why are so many girls discontent with how they look? From where do we get these crazy expectations that we feel we must live up to?

Whether we realize it or not, the media is an enormous influence in our lives. In essence, it attempts to create and define what should be considered beautiful by society. The remarkable thing is, we listen! We, as females, feel that we must measure up to some sort of invented ideal, and constantly compare ourselves to an illusion. How do you compare to perfection, when "perfection" has been airbrushed and digitally edited in magazines?

Yet somehow, even knowing all this, we still feel the need to have the "perfect" body and look. We are constantly told that success comes from looking good, whether through advertisements or society in general. This creates a desire to look thin, be in style, be pretty enough, and to even dress like sex objects. It is not wrong to take care of your body, be fashionable, and want to look good, but it should never define how you feel about yourself as a person. Over and over again, we try to measure up, thinking that if we can just meet certain standards we would feel good about ourselves. This is a lie: this success will not bring happiness or fulfillment. I want to like my body!

Regardless of this constant attack on your self-image, it is possible to have a healthy, positive body image. A positive body image is a true perception of your shape, when you feel confident and comfortable with your body, realizing that a person's physical appearance does not determine her character and value as a person.

Here are some steps to encourage a positive body image:

* Appreciate what your body can do.

* Spend less time in front of mirrors.

* Make a top 10 list of things you like about yourself.

* Remind yourself that true beauty is not skin-deep.

* See yourself as a whole person: don't focus on specific body parts.

* Do something nice for yourself.

* Participate in activities you enjoy.

* Surround yourself with positive people.

* Do something to help others: stop focusing on you!

* Practice taking people seriously for what they say, feel, and do: not for their appearance.

Is it beautiful everywhere?

Our body image is easily manipulated by what others think. More often than not, it is just our perception of the situation rather than what is truth. Suddenly we believe that to be truly happy and successful in life, we must look a certain way because appearance is the most important thing (whether we realize we are doing this or not!). But think about this: what you may think is the standard for beauty may not be the standard elsewhere.

Take a look at these facts:

* In North America, tanning to a golden brown is desirable and considered beautiful; however, in Japan, girls get their skin whitened.

* In Singapore, many women are undergoing eyelid implant surgery for bigger, more defined eyes, and rhinoplasty, to give them sharper-looking noses.

* North American women jump from diet to diet, trying to lose weight; while in Mexico, most women do not exercise because curves are sought-after.

* Brazil boasts the most bottom implants in the world, while elsewhere in the world women work to tone and slim down their bottoms.

What does this tell us? That it's all relative! What is considered "beautiful" is not as consistent throughout the world as we may think. This therefore tells us that we shouldn't get stuck in a mindset that defines beauty only one way: many things are beautiful! That's what real beauty is all about!

Remember this: no one person is perfect. Everyone has flaws that they are unhappy with; even the 5'11" European runway model. What really matters is not on the outside, but the inside. Focus on your strengths and realize that beauty is not skin deep. Just because you "look good" it doesn't make you a beautiful person.

The choice is yours.

For more information, please visit www.girlthreesixfive.com .Used by permission.

www.girlthreesixfive.com

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