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According to a recent survey by online retailer isme.com, over 90 per cent of women in their 40s and 50s are so depressed with their image that they suffer from Midlife Mirror Angst Syndrome, a condition that leads to low body confidence, depression and unhappiness. Self image is so low for these women that all of those questioned wanted to change something about the way they look.
The survey also reported that over 42 per cent of middle aged women complained that high street clothes are aimed at young people and are tailored to highlight problem areas rather than hide them. Dr Alex Yellowlees from The Priory spoke to The Hour about these alarming results. He said:
“This notion is that middle aged women look in the mirror and are extremely dissatisfied with their shape, their body proportions and their degree of thinness, and that is causing them to be so dissatisfied with themselves that it leads them to become low in mood, depressed and unhappy.
“I think it’s flagging up a real trend in our society which is that the drive for women to look a certain way is extending in age range. Younger and younger children are exposed to these kinds of influences and older and older women are buying into these beliefs that in order to feel good about themselves they have to be a certain body shape, a certain clothes size and look particularly youthful, whereas previously they didn’t buy into it to the same degree.
In our modern society the idealisation of thinness has put older women under intense pressure to strive towards having the perfect body. The media, advertising, fashion and cosmetic industries all contribute towards promoting the myth that in order to have real value in our culture women ought to be constantly motivated towards the attainment of physical perfection.
In pursuit of this cultural myth of the ‘thin ideal’, middle aged women are now trying to manipulate their body shape and size through new diets and faddish exercise regimes and subjecting themselves to cosmetic surgery procedures and body modification interventions. Dr Alex said:
“People need to be aware at the moment that we’re going through a phase where society is idealising specific features and specific things, and it’s up to us if we buy into that and to what degree we buy into these myths.
“We are definitely seeing more and more men buying into these kinds of beliefs and that in turn is increasing to some degree the rate of eating disorders that we’re seeing in young men. It’s one of the factors that’s involved in it.”
“We need to step back and see it for what it is and to start basing our own self worth less on those changing values and base it more on our internal personal attributes. Our personalities, our values, our relationships, our talents, our friendships; that’s much more solid ground. We need to make our self esteem based on something other than the changing messages that society is constantly bombarding us with.”