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‘Prom season’ is a thrilling period for high school students. It is when couples find dates, venues get booked, after-prom celebrations get planned, and, most significantly, the quest for the ‘perfect’ dress commences.

While scouring department stores for that one dress can be exhilarating, it is crucial to recognize that societal expectations can cast a shadow of pressure and anxiety over this exciting time.

Prom happens in May and June during junior and senior high school years. It culminates in one night of dancing, endless photos, and celebrating with one’s friends and partners. However, because of the culture surrounding needing to look perfect on prom night and the added pressure of social media, one’s view of one’s body image compared to others becomes a point of contention for individuals enjoying their time at prom. More so, girls tend to post photos of their dresses before prom season begins, causing individuals to compare their appearances to their peers. Catherine Milkovich writes for Body Positive Alliance: “A survey distributed by The Mental Health Foundation concluded that 1 in 5 young adults feel that images on social media harm their self-esteem. Seeing filtered and potentially photoshopped photos and videos of classmates on prom night is no different—these images set an unattainable standard for what we will look like in our own photos” (Milkovich, 2021). Seeing perfectly edited images online can trigger body image issues and negatively impact one’s relationship with food and exercise. There is also the issue of lack of representation in clothing stores, with limited options for plus-size women, in addition to unrealistic expectations that society harbors, especially during prom season when girls endlessly search for a dress that is “the one.” The abundant stressors can make anyone unsure about themselves and whether they will enjoy their evening. However, there are ways to combat negative thoughts and feelings, learn to embrace their individuality, and make the most out of prom night.

How To Combat Negative Thoughts During Prom Season 

The first step in combating negative thoughts about one’s body image during prom season is to understand the triggers. As Michelle Konstantinovsky writes for Equip Health, ‘Pictures are a major part of the anxiety equation when it comes to prom, and today’s teens likely feel this stress more than any generation before them because of social media’ (Konstantinovsky, 2023). By recognizing the role of social media in shaping our perceptions, we can begin to challenge these unrealistic standards and focus on our unique beauty. Another strategy is to practice challenging negative thoughts before they come to fruition. “When you see a picture of yourself and your auto-response is to think something negative about your appearance, try saying a neutral statement to yourself” (Konstantinovsky, 2023). The concept of body neutrality helps us with this. When you look at your body and think something negative, try thinking about the function that body part serves. For example, replace the thought, “I hate my legs,” with “I appreciate my legs for carrying me to the places I need to go.”

At BALANCE eating disorder treatment center™, we understand the complexities of eating disorders and provide you with comprehensive and necessary tools to help you on your recovery journey.

The objectives of our weekly Body Image Group include gaining insight into the relationship with one’s body and how eating disorder behaviors and urges are often a result of how emotions manifest in one’s physical body. Click here to learn more about this group.

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                                                                                       References 

Milkovich, C. (2021, September 24). Body image during prom season — Body Positive Alliance. Body Positive Alliance. https://bodypositivealliance.org/blog/body-image-during-prom-season


Konstantinovsky, M. (2023, April 10). It’s Prom Season: How to Deal with Photo-Centric Events in Eating Disorder Recovery. Equip Health. Retrieved April 6, 2024, from https://equip.health/articles/body-image/prom-photos-eating-disorder-recovery

This post was written by BALANCE Blog Contributor, Regina Colie (she/her).

Regina Colie is a blog contributor for BALANCE, whose previous work has been featured in Project HEAL and Nourishing NY. She is an alumnus of The New School of Social Research, where she received her Masters in Psychology. After attending Marymount Manhattan College, she had the opportunity to be published in Dr. Nava Silton’s book, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Child, Adolescent, and Adult Development.  

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