We all know that feeling. Ten minutes before P.E. class, we make our way into the locker rooms and swap from our everyday wear into the appropriate attire for an excellent workout.
For more highschoolers than you may think, this is the most dreadful part of their day. Undressing in front of others can be vulnerable and extremely uncomfortable. It’s especially sensitive since many teenagers suffer from low self-esteem and body image issues. According to the National Organization for Women, 53% of American 13 year olds are unhappy with their bodies, while that number bumps up to 80% by the age of 17. Meanwhile, 10% to 30% of men are dissatisfied with their bodies.
The biggest culprit to blame for the increase in body image issues is social media. It’s far too easy to accumulate a large mass of people who adjust their photos using lighting, angles, and editing. In return, this promotes unrealistic ideals that damage others’ relationships with their bodies due to comparison. Not only are these unrealistic ideals damaging, they are simply unattainable. Many will try to reach these silly expectations by abusing their bodies with dieting and/or taking pills, steroids, or laxatives.
These expectations and standards are most commonly introduced during childhood. According to Common Sense Media, “young children engage with some of the more extreme body portrayals in media in the form of toys such as dolls and action figures. Some research indicates that children’s cartoons already portray thinness positively.” Additionally “researchers found that most models were young, thin whites…6% of models had rounder, softer body types, and 95% of the models in the fashion magazines were characterized as lean.” This goes to show some of the subtle implements of body expectations in childhood, not including what children say to one another about weight or size.
Self esteem is formed and is strengthened/weakened in a variety of ways. Changing in locker rooms further increases feelings of dissatisfaction in adolescents because it’s a vulnerable state that makes it easier to compare yourself to others. Most of the time, people won’t compare their bodies to others if they have clothes on because it may cover up any insecurities. If you or someone you know may be showing any of these signs, it’s best to address them or possibly approach an adult or doctor for help before the body image issues get out of hand:
- Body image avoidance
- Body image checking
- Body preoccupation
- Overvaluation of body weight or shape
- Feeling fat
- Fear of weight gain
- Thin-ideal internalization
- Muscle dysmorphia
- Body dysmorphia
Many of us deal with body insecurities, especially while changing in a locker room. Luckily, there are a few things you can do until you feel comfortable changing your clothes around other people. I’ve also included some positive affirmations you can use to remind yourself of the truly important things in your life:
- Your body does a lot to keep you alive, strong, and healthy. Breathing, blinking, talking, and digestion are a few examples of what our bodies do that we often take for granted.
- You are so much more than your body or what you look like.
- Changing in the locker room only takes up a few minutes of your day so don’t let that small amount of time get to you. In the long run, it doesn’t matter.
- If you don’t feel comfortable changing around other people and if it’s available, bathroom stalls are a great way to have more privacy.
- If you don’t want to change in a bathroom stall, try to find a place in the locker room that is further away from other people and less crowded.
- Focus on yourself while changing instead of comparing yourself to other people.