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Idealized Imagery

Working title: How an individual’s reaction to idealized imagery might change over time and what might facilitate such change.

I was looking at the idea of idealized imagery, what we see in the media every day is thin women, and advertising presents unrealistic images of beauty and perfection. This leaves consumers comparing their actual selves to idealized images and creates an internalization of ideals, that thin is best and you need to be thin to succeed in life (be it love or a career).

The discrepancy between the ideal self and the actual self can lead to body dissatisfaction and lower self-esteem. Research studies have even shown that that consumers believe idealized images not only affect self-esteem, mood and self-confidence but also contribute to feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, anger, anxiety and depression. As a plus size woman, this rings very true to me.

This took me to look at the literature on coping strategies, and I found too overarching strategies. Positive reappraisal, this is where fat acceptance and the fatosphere come in, we learn to rework our idealized and internalized images, and reject the ideal, creating a new ideal. This is where most of you reading this will fall, but i am sure we all mostly started out in the next phase and are are somewhere on the sliding scale in our body acceptance journeys.

The other is problem solving, which is confirming to the ideal and trying to change ourselves to fit in with the ideal, we see ourselves as the anomaly in the situation. Most people are trying to reduce or eliminate self-discrepancies as internalization ideals can lead to dissatisfaction with the self and weightless is actively promoted as the only way they could help their bodies to conform to an ideal of thinness. Their Identity becomes dominated by their hatred of their bodies.

Weight loss for most people isn't a sustainable solution, research shows people struggle to keep it off with most having put it back on in 3 years, if this is the case where does that leave people? Do they turn to fat acceptance?  Is there a difference between people who have always been bigger to people who become bigger later (I have the idea that people who came to it later are still at problem solving, whereas people who has always been fat are at the positive reappraisal stage).

These are the questions I hoped to answer with my research, that would have taken a guided introspection route, using photographs of the subject’s life’s and ask them to talk me through them and about them. However this is no longer what I will be researching (my context of plus size remains though) as getting this work published in a Marketing journal will prove very difficult as work on coping strategies has reached saturation.

I hope to bring you more work like this in the future as my research progress. If you have any questions or thoughts, I would love to hear them so comment or drop me an email.