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Why Does Even the Thought of Trying on a Swimsuit Depress Women?

Luis Enrique Ascui, Getty Images

Unless you’re a supermodel, trying on swimsuits likely leaves you depressed and in a sour mood. But you’re not alone — research now finds that even thinking about the self-esteem-crushing ritual can have the same effect.

Study researcher Marika Tiggemann, a psychologist at Flinders University in Australia, says imagining wearing a swimsuit also increases feelings of self-objectification, meaning that we see our bodies the way we think others do, which can lead to eating disorders and depression.

In studies with about 100 female undergraduate students, Tiggermann and her colleagues found that when women imagined themselves wearing a swimsuit, they felt worse about their bodies than when they imagined wearing clothes like jeans.

That said, imagining wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room surprisingly upset women more than when they were asked to imagine wearing one on the beach — something the researchers said proves how much self-objectification is truly an internal process.

“The physical presence of observers is clearly not necessary,” they wrote in the study. “More particularly, the dressing room of a clothing store contains a number of potentially objectifying features: (often several) mirrors, bright lighting, and the virtual demand that women engage in close evaluation of their body in evaluating how the clothes appear and fit.”

So how you can avoid self-objectification? Tiggemann suggests focusing on activities like sports that emphasize the function of the body rather than its appearance.


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