In the age of social networking, we seem to see more images intended to make us feel poorly about ourselves. Not only do we see advertisers tell us every imperfection we have, it seems we cannot even escape images that trigger negative feelings when interacting with friends online.

According to some new research, social networking sites are becoming more frequently cited for body image issues that women experience. For a woman who experiences this kind of issue, the candid snapshots she and her friends post online become a sea of images of all the things she thinks are wrong with her and all of the ways she’ll never measure up to her friends.

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SOCIAL NETWORK INTERACTION

However, perhaps by connecting with friends on the Internet, women can be mutually inspired and empowered. Social networking sites are not just home to women posting pictures of themselves, complaining about how ugly they are and bringing out similar insecurities in their friends. It is also home to women who are determined to change their lives by eating well and exercising, undergoing challenges and marathons. Friends can encourage each other in marathon conditioning. A woman beginning cancer treatments can see the support her friends are offering her; when she needs to make her body stronger following a successful cancer treatment can see much of the same support.

It’s very easy to pay attention to only the parts of websites that we find undesirable or harmful, and to write off all social networking sites as toxic to women’s self-esteem. Certainly shared body hatred is not an ideal way for friends to bond, but the best way to ensure that negative influences are out of your life is to get rid of them yourself. By unsubscribing from a person’s news feed or blog you can avoid seeing any status updates they make, including the ones that encourage her friends to feel poorly about themselves and their bodies.

motivationAnother way social networking can help women feel better about themselves and encourage them to continue with their fitness regimen and to be proud of their results is by allowing them to share motivational pictures, of themselves or of other people, quotes and informational links.

It is possible to make a positive environment even out of a negative one. By doing so, women can support each other and redefine sexy for themselves to include muscle and a more fit frame, in direct opposition to the images of ultra-skinny women which are presented as desirable and feminine and exclude other body types.

Being proactive about one’s health and fitness should also include efforts to improve one’s mental health and self-image. People assume that as they start to achieve the body they want, their self-esteem will automatically change for the better as well. However, this is not always true. In fact, it frequently is not, and women can feel as though their results are meaningless if they do not achieve perfection. This kind of thinking will not only continue a damaging cycle of low self-esteem, it can also lead to a loss of motivation and loss of interest in maintaining one’s fitness regimen.

SUPPORT TO HELP REACH THOSE FITNESS GOALS

It is important to remember that the support of friends is often the deciding factor in success in fitness plans. Instead of withdrawing from friends, even on social networking sites, because of negativity and damaging effects on self-confidence, women can use the opportunity to connect with their friends and motivate each other. This is a much more positive use of social networking that can be good for everyone involved. It is difficult to get out of the habit of disparaging your imperfections but, like other unhealthy habits, it can be broken.

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