Study finds women constantly self-criticize. (Photo: Trunk)
Self-criticism and negativity are all-too common issues in our image-driven society, and a recent survey of 2,000 women found that the average woman criticizes herself eight times a day. The most common criticism? You guessed it: weight. The study, conducted by Weight Watchers, attributes the trend of negative self-image to social media platforms and the selfie-sharing culture that bombards women with images of perfection. “We’re seeing a rise in women being self-critical, from the way they look to the way they feel at work,” Weight Watchers Head of Public Health Zoe Griffiths told Daily Mail. “Our research has shown that being unkind to ourselves has been an underlying theme for women for many years, but a set of very modern cultural conditions have increased the intensity of this unkindness which are hard to avoid.” The study is part of the WomanKind campaign that explores why women are unkind to themselves and how to counter the trend.
The study makes it exceedingly clear that we are our own harshest critics. 42 percent of women admitted to never complimenting themselves, while 46 percent of women said they criticize themselves at least once before 9:30AM. Still, thinking positively proves difficult when the media sends the wrong messages to women. In Oprah Winfrey’s recent Weight Watchers campaign, we hear an iconic and powerful woman self-criticize and reminisce about her weight loss struggles. “Inside every overweight woman is a woman she knows she can be,” Oprah states, adding that she tried and failed time and again, and that her true self was “buried in the weight.” Instead of reflecting on her many accomplishments, she looks back at her weight loss failures implying that her true, ideal and thin self was trapped inside her overweight self, despite being equally accomplished and impactful at that point in her life. A message intended to empower and motivate women is plagued with negativity.
Likewise, a series of controversial ads by Protein World offended when they emerged last year. The ads read, “are you beach body ready?” alongside a thin woman in a skimpy bikini, implying that every body isn’t ready for the beach. The brand’s latest campaign is no better, featuring scantily clad Victoria’s Secret types with the slogan “New Year, New You.” Women on Twitter took offense, not wanting to be shamed while sitting on their sofas watching TV.
Body shaming advertisements bring down women’s self-esteem. (Photo: Protein World)
Women react to body shaming ads. (Photo: Twitter)
It’s no surprise that women feel badly about themselves when they are expected to meet impossible standards, but women’s negative opinions of themselves are still shockingly harsh. Of the 20 most common ways that a woman criticizes herself, 13 involve self-image, and six of those 13 involve weight. The top five areas of criticism according to the Weight Watchers study were weight, appearance, career, finances, and relationships.
Instead of self-criticizing, women should appreciate the things they do well and learn to compliment themselves and accept compliments from others. “When women find themselves obsessing over weight, it can be helpful to first, remember that the self-talk is likely coming from our media culture or a peer or family member who once told them that they didn’t measure up, not from the reality of who they are,” says Jennifer Berger, Executive Director of About-Face, a nonprofit organization that improves young women’s body image and self-esteem through media literacy and action-taking. “Second, they might try to interrupt that thought by remembering an accomplishment that is not about appearance — replace that negative talk with something that feels good. Consider turning off media for a while — the images of women who don’t look like you, especially. Understand that this is not really about you, it’s about our crazy culture.” Step away from the glossies and the scale. “Oh yeah, and stop weighing yourself. The number means nothing.”