on Body Image Development
JESSICA L. GOKEE
Our interpersonal relationships, the way we see ourselves in comparison to others, and the feedback we receive all contribute to our self-concept, including how we feel about our physical appearance. This premise is underscored when we consider what really makes us anxious about our appearance. More often than not, we are nervous about how others will evaluate the way we look. A passing comment can either elevate or dampen our mood and self-confidence: Hearing "You look great!," we feel uplifted, our confidence renewed; hearing, "You look tired today," we may feel more fatigued as well as self-conscious. A growing body of literature suggests that others' opinions have a profound impact on how we view and feel about our bodies. For example, Rosen and his colleagues conducted a comprehensive study on body image influences; of the 19 critical experience categories identified, more than half were tied to interpersonal factors such as feedback on appearance and peer or familial competition.
This chapter reviews the interpersonal processes that shape body image and examines evidence that explicit and implicit messages regarding appearance have an important effect on an individual's body image. The unique influences of peers, romantic partners, and strangers are described, implications for assessment and treatment offered, and directions for future research explored. (Kearney-Cooke discusses familial influences in the preceding chapter in this volume.)