In this timely study, Bulik (Psychiatry/Univ. of North Carolina; Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop, 2009, etc.) examines why the female “inner struggle with identity and self-esteem” often manifests as an obsession with bodily imperfections.
She posits that the main reason why women attempt to “fix” themselves with diets, cosmetics and surgery is that society has led them to conflate self-esteem with what she calls “body esteem.” The latter should only be a minor component of the former, but social pressures on women to conform to unattainable ideals of beauty reverse the relationship so that how they look physically becomes the primary way by which women judge their total personal worth. The author first looks at how females of all ages view themselves and their bodies. She encourages readers to take inventory of the negative feelings they may have accumulated at various stages in their lives, and she offers practical advice on how women can regain control of their lives and end the harm they do to themselves both physically and emotionally. Females must cultivate strategic awareness of negative self-talk—not only what it is, but when and where it arises—while also nurturing “the inner coach.”
Not a panacea for all women suffering from poor self-esteem, but Bulik offers hope that freedom from the unrealistic ideals of beauty can be achieved through disciplined self-scrutiny and a will to change damaging ways of thinking and being.