What Made Self-Objectification A Common Part Of Womanhood
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What Made Self-Objectification A Common Part Of Womanhood


When an individual believes in outer appearance more than that of seeing herself as an individual, it’s self-objectification. People often consider the body just like a physical object when they compare it with the standard or trendy body measurements.

Is Self-Objectification witnessed only in Women?

Though self-objectification is no doubt more prevalent in females, it is significant to understand that a large section of men also suffer from self-objectification and have to hide it to showcase the acceptable standards of masculinity. Women being more self-objectifying comes from socio-cultural surroundings, like how a woman perceives other women dealing with their outer appearance. The root lies in patriarchy where a social setup sees women as mere objects and sexually appealing. Though norms are shifting towards feminism, a lot of deep-rooted misogyny has power in how a woman perceives herself.

Read More: Rajasthani girl speaks over bedsheet virginity test: The Persisting Stigma

According to Psychologist Rashna Elavia, society by itself has very different standards for men and women. Women they are judged not just by their work or the potential that they have but even at their jobs they are judged a lot by what they might be wearing how they look the kind of makeup that they’re applying or if they sustain themselves. Choose to not apply any makeup. All of these things then make a woman also feel like if she conforms to the standards of society she will be more desirable not not only in personal relationships but also in the workplace and among friends. Consequently, many internalize these expectations.


Self-objectification is directly associated with hypercriticality of oneself. Women who don’t fit in the standard body size are often much more hypercritical. But this is not just limited to them. In the recent Met Gala 2024, Kendall Jenner, one of the highest-paid supermodels had her picture edited. Another supermodel Gigi Hadid is seen with much less weight than in earlier years of modelling. This signifies how even the women considered perfect are still the victims of objectification. Recently, Taylor Swift stood up for Lady Gaga After netizens assumed that she is “pregnant” after seeing her “out of shape” body in her recent pictures.

Objectification Theory

Fredrickson and Robert gave one of the most prominent objectification theories in 1997 which accurately describes the concept of self-objectification. It is based on how womanhood is implied with self-objectification based on their surroundings, that is the social and cultural factors that condition the mentality of women and compel them to objectify themselves. The theory describes three components through which self-objectification is engraved in the mindset of women in any society.

The first is direct exposure through comments that an individual listens to. For example, if a woman is gaining weight- family members and even colleagues can constantly point this out, somehow forcing the woman to accept and think about her body size consistently. Secondly, individuals may experience indirect exposure wherein they overhear negative comments about their bodies.

Read More: The Effects of Body Shaming

Even being a part of a conversation where the perfect standard body side is glorified can indirectly force a woman to compare herself for fitting in the ideal body type. For instance, when a woman hears her colleagues in a group conversation admiring a zero-figure body type and mocking plus-size women, she will certainly check her own body type to see if she is admirable or at least acceptable.

Media exposure is the third kind, which looks small but has a tremendous impact on the way the general masses think. With the surge of utilisation in social media, influencers portray their body type as an ideal for all. Even the other influencers who don’t fit in the standard type often try to set themselves as someone superior if they accept their body, surrounding their complete identity just to one label. Glorifying any body type, whether standardized or not, instead of generalizing, cannot help in promoting body positivity. This is because any individual’s persona is much larger than just an outer appearance.

Read More: Mere Exposure Effect in Psychology

Signs of Self-Objectification

To a certain level, self-objectification is healthy and acceptable since every individual has a tendency to value themselves through comparison as stated in the famous social comparison theory. Problems arise when this crosses the limit of healthy boundaries. Anyone can fall prey to this, often we are not even aware that we are self-objectifying our body too much and getting deeper into it. Signs of this include spending a significant amount of time daily thinking about your body type, looking too much into the mirror, frequently asking others for validation, asking for people’s approval through social media, changing diet too much to change body shape and filtering out clothes for achieving similar look of standard size even if it is not comfortable enough.

According to Clinical Psychologist Palkee Baruah Self-objectification, where women internalize an observer’s perspective of their bodies, profoundly impacts mental health and well-being. Imagine constantly scrutinizing yourself through a relentless, critical lens. This is the reality for many women, leading to chronic self-surveillance that fuels anxiety, body dissatisfaction, and low self-esteem (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997). This perpetual self-monitoring detracts from cognitive performance and engagement in life’s joys, breeding feelings of shame and guilt (Moradi & Huang, 2008). Moreover, it can exacerbate eating disorders and depression (Tiggemann, 2013). By focusing on appearance over functionality, self-objectification erodes holistic self-concept and empowerment (Tylka & Hill, 2004). Combatting these impacts requires a cultural shift towards body positivity, self-compassion, and challenging unrealistic beauty standards, essential steps to enhance women’s mental health and well-being (Szymanski, Moffitt, & Carr, 2011).

Self-objectification as a risk to Mental health

Mental well-being comes at a risk when self-objectification increases significantly. Anxiety and depression can come in handy with it. Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders are prevalent with self-objectification.

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): This is a mental health disorder when a certain characteristic of one’s own body is considered a flaw. Negative thoughts can emerge tremendously occupying most of the time with thoughts revolving around body perfection.
  • Eating disorders: This is often a severe mental health issue, it’s an umbrella term used to describe a few disorders; Anorexia Nervosa where one starves themselves by not eating, Bulimia nervosa in which food intake increases magnificently and over-exercising to compensate. In binge eating disorder, one feels an inclusive urge to eat consistently like a coping mechanism.

Read More: Exercise Addiction: Balancing the Benefits and Risks for Mental Health

Dealing with it

Most of us have faced such issues of body objectification at some point or the other and felt confused and helpless for what is the solution.

1. Gratitude

This is the most important step and a strategic intervention of positive psychology. We often forget what our body does to us apart from just physical aesthetics. We are because of our health. Researchers are still discovering infinite functions that contribute to our daily existence, alongside the foundational mechanisms. We might not feel it because it’s not visible, but acknowledging and appreciating it can go miles. Choosing a healthy diet and lifestyle for our bodies, rather than focusing solely on outer appearance, can have a more impactful and sustainable effect in the long term if the purpose is to promote health rather than seek validation from others.

2. Limiting toxic exposure

Our environment and its norms have a magnificent impact on our mindset and thinking. Limiting them and setting a boundary with these can be crucial to deal with body objectification. It starts with as basic as unfollowing an influencer who body shames the non-standard body types. Even in a group conversation, if standing against a stigma is difficult, we can smile through it, making sure it does not reach us. Acceptance is indeed the first step in this journey of dealing with self-objectification.

References +
  • Pmp, K. C. M. B. (2023, May 8). Self-Objectification in women. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-objectification-5441926
  • How society forces women to objectify themselves – impacting their mental health. (n.d.). The Swaddle. https://www.theswaddle.com/how-society-forces-women-to-objectify-themselves-impacting-their-mental-health
  • Gattino S, Czepczor-Bernat K, Fedi A, Brytek-Matera A, Boza M, Lemoine JE, Sahlan RN, Wilson E, De Piccoli N, Rollero C. Self-Objectification and its Biological, Psychological and Social Predictors: A Cross-Cultural Study in Four European Countries and Iran. Eur J Psychol. 2023 Feb 28;19(1):27-47. doi: 10.5964/ejop.6075. PMID: 37063692; PMCID: PMC10103054.
  • Iyer, A. (2018, July 12). 4 surprising ways a woman objectifies herself unknowingly | TheHealthSite.com. TheHealthSite. https://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/women-how-does-objectifying-oneself-create-a-mental-havoc-ai0718-581536/
  • Chen, S., Van Tilburg, W. a. P., & Leman, P. J. (2022). Women’s Self-Objectification and Strategic Self-Presentation on social media. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 47(2), 266–282. https://doi.org/10.1177/03616843221143751

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