Here is what studies have found about individuals with LOW SPA. Older adults and those who conform to societal notions of beauty tend to have lower social physique anxiety. Studies have found that as individuals age, the importance placed on our appearance decreases as other things become more important such as altruistic adventures and community. Studies have also found that individuals who conform to social norms of westernized beauty have fairly low levels of SPA. Meaning, they have been conditioned to believed that if they are traditionally beautiful, then everyone will adore their body and therefore, there is no reason to feel ashamed about it.
Most individuals in young to mid-life experience some SPA. The pressures placed on young individuals to portray an ideal physique are predominant social forces in today’s society. A failure to live up to these standards, whether real or imagined, may induce thoughts and feelings that others are negatively evaluating one’s physique. For those who experience SPA sometimes, may only experience it in certain settings or often have a feeling that other people are looking at them and judging their bodies. This may be exacerbated during physical activity in public or when the body is on display, such as during a presentation. Here’s a tip to reduce that extra bit of anxiety: remind yourself that everyone has a body and that the shape, size, color or ability on the body is not a refection of your internal worth. For most people, the more you give presentations or display your body, the less anxiety you’ll feel.
Quite a Bit of SPA: For those who scored as quite a bit of SPA are used to frequently worrying about the way they look and appear to others. Children as young as seven are exposed to clothing, toys, music, youth magazines and television programs laden with suggestive sexual imagery that glorifies the idealized figure (Zurbriggen et. al, 2007). The constant barrage of popular culture images has normalized the objectification of our bodies and teaching us to place high value on our outward appearance. Having quite a bit of SPA is normal (most people score in this range) considering the societal pressure that we are exposed to in Western cultures. However, just because it is normalized behavior does not make it good for our mental health. Try not to be hard on yourself here, there are a few things you can do to help reduce some of your SPA. Researchers suggest that increasing self-efficacy, increasing perceptions of control, and fostering acceptance can help reduce SPA.
About 25% of individuals, at some point during their lifetime, report a high amount of SPA. Individuals from all walks of life experience high SPA including; varying socioeconomic status, genders, ages, body size, height and ability. Researchers have found that individuals with high SPA often have/ or had an eating disorder, disordered eating, body dysmorphia or other psychological trauma that causes extreme stress and anxiety about the body. For some, the anxiety may only occur in public spaces, while for others it may be all time; both at home and in public. Test results can change over time based on new experiences, additional education, and other factors. Thus you should not view your results as permanent, unalterable representations of your personality. Instead, psychological tests are best understood as a measure of how you are right now, based on your own self-report and the limitations of the test. These online self-report tests should not be used to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. To help reduce your SPA, researchers suggest that increasing self-efficacy, increasing perceptions of control, and fostering acceptance may help.
To help reduce your SPA, researchers suggest that increasing self-efficacy, increasing perceptions of control, and fostering acceptance may help.
Self-Efficacy can be increased through some of the following techniques:
1. Mastery Experiences
The first and foremost source of self-efficacy is through mastery experiences. However nothing is more powerful than having a direct experience of mastery to increase self-efficacy. Having a success, for example in mastering a task or controlling an environment, will build self- belief in that area whereas a failure will undermine that efficacy belief. To have a resilient sense of self-efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles through effort and perseverance.
2. Vicarious Experiences
The second source of self-efficacy comes from our observation of people around us, especially people we consider as role models. Seeing people similar to ourselves succeed by their sustained effort raises our beliefs that we too possess the capabilities to master the activities needed for success in that area.
3. Verbal Persuasion
Influential people in our lives such as parents, teachers, managers or coaches can strengthen our beliefs that we have what it takes to succeed. Being persuaded that we possess the capabilities to master certain activities means that we are more likely to put in the effort and sustain it when problems arise.
4. Emotional & Physiological States
The state you’re in will influence how you judge your self-efficacy. Depression, for example, can dampen confidence in our capabilities. Stress reactions or tension are interpreted as signs of vulnerability to poor performance whereas positive emotions can boost our confidence in our skills.
Increasing Perceptions of Self Control
2. The Body Scan
Another popular exercise for practitioners of mindfulness is called the Body Scan. It requires very little in the way of props or tools, and it is also easily accessible for most beginners.
Would you like to follow a Body Scan right now? Try this 30 minute guided narrative by expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Jon Kabat Zinn.
3. Mindful Seeing
For some, the absence of visual stimuli can feel stifling. After all, a healthy imagination does not come naturally to everyone. The activity of Mindful Seeing may be helpful to anyone who identifies with this feeling.
This is a simple exercise, requiring only a window with some kind of a view. The facilitator guides the group following these steps:
Step 1: find a space at a window where there are sights to be seen outside.
Step 2: look at everything there is to see. Avoid labeling and categorizing what you see outside the window; instead of thinking “bird” or “stop sign”, try to notice the colors, the patterns, or the textures.
Step 3: pay attention to the movement of the grass or leaves in the breeze, notice the many different shapes present in this small segment of the world you can see. Try to
see the world outside the window from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with these sights.
Step 4: be observant, but not critical. Be aware, but not fixated.
Step 5: if you become distracted, gently pull your mind away from those thoughts and notice a color or shape again to put you back in the right frame of mind.
“This exercise only lasts a few minutes, but can open up a world of discovery in an otherwise familiar place”
Dr. Lynn Ponton, MD suggests several ways to increase acceptance of the self. Since the survey specifically centered around the body, here are the ways she suggest we learn to accept our bodies as they are.
Focus on the total person
Enjoy your body
Practice positive thinking
For a full read of her suggestions, click here.