When we hear about body image dissatisfaction we tend to think about young people, particularly young women. Indeed, concerns about physical appearance can be heightened during our teenage years and early twenties where there is a great deal of emphasis, in western societies, on how we look. But some of us will carry our body insecurities throughout life and possibly well into later adulthood.
Dr Miriam Stoppard has talked personally about her experiences here. Following an adult life of ‘discontent’ about her appearance that gradually turned into ‘self-loathing’ she now feels comfortable in her own skin. After steadily losing weight over a two year period, she is quoted as saying ‘I am feeling happier than I ever have about how I look’ and that ‘for the first time in my life I feel a confidence in my figure, my face and my style that I have never had before’. Miriam is 75 years old.
Psychologists have, for a long time, told us that how we feel about our bodies can fluctuate across time and place. However, exploring body image as a lifelong process is a small area of study compared to the research which focuses on young people. The studies that have looked at ageing and body image report that women’s insecurities about their bodies tend to ease as they reach middle adulthood. That midlife brings with it a relaxation of body image concerns.
This may be the case for many western women but is clearly not the case for all. From speaking to women as part of my own research I know that midlife can be a time when anxieties about appearance are exaggerated. The feature by Miriam Stoppard serves to remind us that some of us will carry our body insecurities into our later adult lives; that not all of us will ‘finally’ feel comfortable in our own skin.
No age limit to body image concerns