I’ve read quite many guides on the level of interpreting how body image plays a part in affecting one’s self-esteem, sometimes overtaking it in ways that can lead to a myriad of serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, among others. Considering the obesity epidemic being a prevalent problem in modern American society, and the growing lack of physical activity and the obsession with weight in popular culture, I find body image and self esteem interesting topics exploring among many different groups – male and female, younger populations as well as older. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and something in my respective studies and field that I’ve always wanted to learn more about in any capacity.
I think what interested me in “Woman in the Mirror” was the combined approach of examining body image and self-esteem as unique to a woman’s life cycle, and then tackling techniques to defeat the negative perceptions and self-talk that women may have in relation to this.
Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik, a professor of Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, uses examples in her field to first paint a macroscopic portrait of a woman’s life cycle, from birth to death, about how negative body image plays a role in lowering self esteem, primarily citing many external factors and life changes/perceptions that can affect one depending on where they are. I appreciated the insight on the transitions from elementary to middle school, high school to college, and then a woman’s working years even to the “AARP” age. There are a lot of general examples and case studies given here to elucidate Dr. Bulik’s point – some of them touching on wide stereotyping, but I think it’s clear that she recognizes experience and the particular stages of life have distinct factors that can affect a woman’s image of themselves.
At the end of each chapter in the first part of the book, she provides readers with interactive tables they can use to examine negative thoughts and ideas to take with them about how they view their bodies at a particular time in life. Then, in the second part of the book, she uses those ideas as prompts to introduce ways of combating negative self-talk, which I thought was a great inclusion for a self-help guide. It’s perhaps my favorite part of the work because it touches directly on certain techniques to use and apply.
“Woman in the Mirror” is address to women of multiple age groups, though I think the age group that might benefit from this most would be women above the age of 20, and those that can reflect back on their experiences across a greater spectrum. That’s not to say that the book can’t be used for kids/young adults, but I think on that scope, the book is most useful to women who have kids in that age group, and how to approach combating negative stereotypes and unhealthy body image and eating habits.
Overall, it was an interesting and insightful read, and while it gives a general spectrum on the juxtaposition of body image and self-esteem, it bears mention that it makes you think about the societal issues and impact that comes with it, as well as how to address them in order to live a healthier, happier life.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Bloomsbury.