Volume 92, Issue 49

Tuesday, December 1, 1998



Self-image, self-esteem

Graphic by Brahm Wiseman

By Cherry Cua
Gazette Writer

In virtually every mainstream magazine, the pages are spilling over with images of Cindy Crawford, Tyson Beckford, Tyra Banks, Kate Moss and a slew of other picture-perfect supermodels. As well, television and movies are filled with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Courtney Cox, Salma Hayek, Brad Pitt and hundreds of other young "good-looking" people.

Many young men and women try very hard to look like these celebrities and some are so hung up on their looks, they resort to drastic measures to achieve the images of "perfect" men and women.

Sharon Martin, a fitness trainer at Good Life Fitness Club, observes that most people want to lose weight and often, people are not content with what they were genetically blessed with. "Some people are perfect already, but they think they're too fat," she says.

Body weight would seem to have a very tight, negative relationship with body image. Martin lists the top concerns right now for women as their buttocks, thighs and abdominals. Men, she says, are mostly concerned with their upper body strength and abdominals.

Maynard Luterman, a specialist dealing with eating disorders and self-esteem issues at his private practice in London, points out there are some people out there who have a very low self-esteem due to minor things, such as perceiving they have the wrong eye colour.

According to Luterman, self-image has a great deal to do with appearance and he cites magazines, television shows and advertisements as being some of the culprits which contribute to these often unrealistic images. "[People are] generally not up to the image that they believe they should be living up to," he says.

Rick Telfer, a first-year master of sociology student, specialized in the "Looking Glass Self," which is an area that studies a person's image of how others perceive them is distorted by their own insecurities. He agrees with Luterman and explains that body image starts to form when a person is in their pre-teens or even early childhood and a large part of image comes from someone's family, peers and the pop culture. The "Looking Glass Self" is how people see themselves as others see them. "[We] pick up on certain things, signals," Telfer says.

Unfortunately, continues Telfer, some people might negatively misread those signals. "We tend to amplify those wrong signals."

So what is the best way to deal with a low self-image?

"A big part of life is acceptance and we should be grateful for what we do have and not what we don't have," Luterman says. "[Good self-esteem] comes from inside, not from outside."

Reassurance from our loved ones also helps, but the major part has got to come from within yourself. Telfer suggests a different approach. "Cultural things like magazines, ads – get rid of them! Trash them!

"Concentrate on your good qualities and put yourself in the right social environment."

To Contact The Focus Department: gazette.focus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998