Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 95–101 | Cite as

Body Themes in Descriptions of Possible Selves: Diverse Perspectives across the Life Span

  • Jane Allin Bybee
  • Yvonne V. Wells


Differences across the lifespan in allusions to the body are the focus of this review of studies examining ideal and nightmare (or feared) self-descriptions. Among adolescents, desires for physical beauty and physical metamorphosis (e.g., maturation into a shapely adult body) are at their zenith. Young people also frequently mention ideals involving body as commodity such as desires to barter physical might or appearance for money as a professional athlete, entertainer, or fashion model. In nightmare self-descriptions, the body is depicted as a siren among the young: fears of falling victim to bodily addictions and carnal cravings crest around young adulthood. In contrast, other body themes such as fears of physical and mental incapacitation become more prevalent with age. Desires for bodily strength and physical health continue in force through middle adulthood. Main effects of sex and ethnicity are also reviewed.

Key words:

self-image possible selves body image 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySuffolk UniversityBostonUSA

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