K-State researcher discovers compliments go a long way to improve body self-image in women

MANHATTAN, KAN. --When many women look in the mirror, they see themselves as a collection of body parts -- and they don't like what they see.

Everywhere we look, we are bombarded by the media telling us how we should look and it affects our body image. Even cartoon characters are drawn a certain way, often sending an unrealistic message -- especially to women -- about the way they are supposed to look. It's enough to cause some women to suffer from anxiety, depression and to be ashamed of their bodies.

According to research done by a recent Kansas State University master's degree graduate in social psychology, a compliment can go a long way in easing a woman's anxiety over her looks. Courtney Fea said a kind word can reduce a woman's shame about her body if she looks at herself negatively.

"What we found was that for women who look at themselves as bodies, if you compliment them, they do feel better about themselves," Fea said. "And it doesn't matter what kind of compliment you give them; it doesn't matter if you compliment them about how they physically look or about who they are as a person."

Fea will present a paper based on her research, "Effect of Trait Self-Objectification on Body Shame, Appearance Anxiety and Unipolar Depression" at the American Psychological Society's convention May 27 in Los Angeles.

"It's a really exciting opportunity," Fea said. "It's nice to be able to present at a big, prestigious conference like this, and to be able to present on such a new and novel topic."

Although self-objectification has been discovered in girls as young as 4-5 years old, Fea's research focused on older subjects who often voice concerns like "my arms are too flabby" or "my hips are too wide."

"It's those things that they indicate the most embarrassment about," Fea said. "We used college students because not only is it a convenient sample, but it seems to be in the midst of the early 20s that the body anxiety and

Contact: Courtney Fea
Kansas State University

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