Psychology

The Psychology of Body Image



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No matter how we try to deny it, we all care about how we look. The way other people perceive us can be a powerful hallmark of how we ultimately relate to each other.

We intrinsically know that certain shapes, colors, and textures have a psychological effect on the people around us. Thus we are all bound and determined to some point to control it when it applies to ourselves.

It's the same reason large corporations spend fortunes on research experts and surveys to use psychological visual triggers for their facilities. Case in point: Fast-food places like McDonald's use bright colors like red and yellow (although more so in the past than now) to create an overall state of briskness and energy expenditure; of moving quickly.

It's a fast-food joint. There's a reason that they have only moderately-padded seating for their patrons rather than recliners and comfy couches.

Correctional institutions have long used colors like pink and "institutional green" to keep inmates in a more docile frame of mind.

There are studies that have shown that spending extended stretches of time in a room with bright red walls will make you a bit interesting in the noggin after awhile. Spending long periods of time in a room with black walls can spark depression and claustrophobia.

It's all an unspoken game of attempting to present a concept and control with it, and we are no different in regards to ourselves.

There is a dire "need" in Western society for people to try to be as thin as possible, to take up as little room as they can. So examine that: a thinner person's basic structure and make-up is much more evident to the human eye than a more heavily-padded person's.

A thin person's musculature, bone, sinew, and veins are all more visible. Iggy Pop's arms are so veiny that they'd be a vampire's equivalent of watching the Food Network, and I could name a dozen Hollywood actresses who have collarbones fit to cut glass.

In short, being having less "insulation" physically literally shows more of "who you are", "on the inside", under the skin.

Is there a psychological compulsion in our culture to try to express more of "who we are on the inside"? Is this our half-baked and subconscious drive to make an impression and hope that the things we want to say but never will are going to be somehow advertised on the minimalist canvases of our strictly-controlled figures?

Does it make one subconsciously more attractive and accessible as a result? Does it imply a fragility, a vulnerability that attracts others to investigate it?

Conversely, does it make the more "insulated" or physically-padded (read: fatter) people seem less accessible? More heavily armored? Less desirable for investigation? Is this the real psychological reason that fat people are often far less socially appealing to the general population?

Do overweight compulsive eaters have an unacknowledged need to intake more material with which to build that "armor" as a counterproductive result of the pariah syndrome to which they become accustomed?

To foster these ideals is to deny that we as human beings are more than the sum of our parts; that the human soul doesn't really exist, or is of little consequence at best. It is to deny that our brains and our metaphorical hearts are less important than our physical vehicles.

If you want to show the world who you are on the inside, take a more active role in it. Make something that lasts. Write. Paint. Draw. Make films. Sing or dance even if no one is listening or watching. Do right by the people you have to share this world with that need it most. Make a statement that is enduring.

Bodies decay over time. They grow thinner or fatter, stronger or weaker, healthier or sicker all the time. It is manageable for a time, but in the end, unstoppable. Hair dye fades and so will your carefully cultivated tan. Clothing will eventually fall to nothing more than a mass of unraveled thread.

We live in the age of information and easily-displayed self expression. We live in the era of blogging and websites that take all of an hour to create and drive traffic to. We live in a world of mass emails, virtual networking, and cellphones.

To make a statement or a contribution that lasts is immeasurably easy in terms of tools these days. Yet we still seem to have little of substance to say. Instead, we give visual indicators to the people around us of how well we eat, how much we do or don't exercise, how good our plastic surgeons are, how much we pay our hairdressers, and how much money we're willing to give to clothiers in the hopes that it'll convey an unspoken message about who we are.

If you want to be heard, then say something. Don't just toss out a bottle with a scrap of paper inside and hope that someone cares enough to decipher the code if it washes ashore at all.

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