Just thinking about trying on swimsuits can put women in a bad mood, according to a new study.
Australian researchers found that when women picture themselves wearing a swimsuit, they also have elevated feelings of self-objectification or feeling like they’re only being evaluated as objects.
"Self-objectification has a variety of negative consequences — always worrying about how you look, shame about the body, and [it] is linked to eating disorders and depression," study author Marika Tiggemann, a psychologist at Flinders University in Australia, said, according to LiveScience.
Tiggemann and her colleagues conducted a study made up of 102 female college students who were asked to imagine themselves in four different scenarios: wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room, wearing a swimsuit on a beach, and wearing a pair of jeans in a dressing room and on the beach.
After each imagination exercise, participants filled out questionnaires that measured their moods, feelings about the body and self-objectification.
The findings, published in the journal Sex Roles, show that women imagining wearing a swimsuit felt worse about their bodies than the sweater and jeans outfit, and women were more likely to self-objectify when imagining wearing a swimsuit in a dressing room, compared to imagining wearing a swimsuit on the beach or public setting, where they might think other people could judge their bodies.
"The physical presence of observers is clearly not necessary," researchers wrote. "More particularly, the dressing room of a clothing store contains a number of potentially objectifying features: mirrors, bright lighting, and the virtual demand that women engage in close evaluation of their body in evaluating how the clothes appear and fit."
While negative self-objectification is impossible to prevent, Tiggemann said that it can be reduced by focusing on activities that emphasize function rather than appearance like yoga, sports or sailing and by avoiding mirrors and comparisons with others.