I (Don't) love my body: Counter-intuitive effects of a body-affirming statement on college women's body satisfaction

Renee Engeln*, Megan N. Imundo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: Messages encouraging women to love their bodies are common elements of positive body image movements, but there are theoretical reasons to suspect that such messages may backfire. Methods: In a sample of 293 college women, we tested the impact of mentally repeating the affirmation “I love my body” on body satisfaction. We prompted participants to think either “I love my body” (affirmation condition) or “I am [age] years old” (control condition) while they completed a five-minute writing task. Results: Relative to the control, the affirmation condition led to significantly lower body satisfaction. Additionally, 53% of affirmation condition participants counterargued the body affirmation by writing something negative about their appearance; only 6% in the control condition wrote a negative appearance comment. Discussion: Results suggest that some messages intended to promote positive body image have the potential to decrease women's body satisfaction, in part because they prompt women to think of flaws in their appearance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-639
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Volume39
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Body image
  • Counterarguing
  • Objectification
  • Self-affirmation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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