From a young age, we are taught to identify as our bodies. We fill out forms for school, work and hospitals that are filled with bodily identification questions (gender, ethnicity, hair color, etc). As we grow, social norms/stereotypes for our bodies guide our lives. Boys are supposed to be tough and strong, athletic success or physical gains are desired and good grades in school will lead you to happiness. The media also reinforces how our bodies are tied to happiness. From magazines touting easy body slimming/building exercise routines and celebrities who defy aging to television commercials showing young, successful, beautiful people enjoying life on a beach with their favorite beverage, we are constantly bombarded with depictions of the perfect body. The message is simple, if your body is beautiful then you’ll be happy. Follow a few simple exercises or take the new revolutionary health supplement or makeup product and you too can enjoy life like your favorite celebrity.
An issue with tying happiness to your body or bodily enjoyment is that it is temporary. The happiness you received from these sense enjoyments will either fade away or will make you want more. Think about it, was there an item you really wanted? What happened once you obtained that item? It may have provided happiness for a while but it doesn’t solve your problems and can even become a source of stress, if you begin to worry about losing it. Or exercising with the hope that a more physically attractive body will bring you happiness through increased relationships with the opposite sex. While the increased attention from others may bring more confidence or positive feelings, it can also lead to insecurities about what will happen if you don’t maintain your physical gains. And this in turn will cause you to focus more time on your body and reinforce in your mind that your body equals happiness.