9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Relations & Emotions II Building II, C6.06

Emotional Value of Body Image and Self-Esteem

Body image refers to the persons´ picture of their body in their mind. It is closely connected with their self-esteem and the predominant emotions, associated with their own body. It is also under strong influence of the persons´ beliefs and attitudes as well as the ideals that prevail in the society. For females, as compared with males, there is a greater discrepancy between their perceived body size and their ideal body size. Female adolescents are even more preoccupied with physical appearance than women in other age groups. They are also more likely to identify themselves as overweight. They tend to be dissatisfied with their body weight, size, and shape. Since their feelings about themselves may be shaped by the attitudes of others, the overweight people may suffer from low self-esteem and have high levels of depression.

Body image is not necessarily the reflection of the persons´ actual appearance. Even the real physical appearance differs in meaning and importance for males and females (particularly concerning their body weight and shape). Many women want to be slimmer, since slimness is regarded as beautiful, while fatness is viewed negatively. Therefore the persons´ dissatisfaction with their appearance may cause serious emotional problems. Such people may be bereft of joy, happiness, liveliness and optimism. Instead of positive emotions they can experience despair, depression and even manifest auto-aggressive behaviour (above all, eating disorders, etc.).

While men tend to obtain their self-esteem through achievements, power status and control, women's self-concept and self-esteem are often based on desirability and attractiveness. Thus, women are under greater pressure than men to look well.