What Is Body Image?
Body image is the perception about how we look and the thoughts and feelings that arise from one’s body identity. Most of the time, we view ourselves accurately and are comfortable with our bodies. A person can feel good about certain parts of her body but less satisfied with other parts. This is not unusual.
Body image can be subject to personal distortion and may not be what others think of us at all. Struggles with body identity are not uncommon. Emotions, moods, early experiences, or behavioral health issues like depression may have great influence on self-perceptions.
Body image also impacts behavior. American women are more susceptible to the traps of body identity than are men. Distorted perceptions can lead to eating disorders, severe anxiety, and exercise disorders.
If a person becomes obsessed about real or imagined body imperfections, they can develop body dysmorphic disorder. Faulty assessments about these imperfections can cause significant distress and interfere with daily living functions.
Distorted Body Image in Childhood
Distorted perception of body image (also called negative body image) often begins in childhood. Among young girls in grades one to three, 41% want to be thinner, and 81% of ten year olds fear they will become fat. In the last decade, hospitalizations for eating disorders has increased 119% for children younger than twelve years of age.
Struggles with body image often begin in puberty when the body naturally goes through changes. When combined with a need for peer acceptance, these changes can lead to problems if a person is dissatisfied with how she looks or if her appearance is criticized by peers.
Media also influences body image. It depicts images that can be difficult or impossible for the average person to attain. The average teen who compares herself to models who have been dipped and re-dipped in “makeover beautiful” probably will not improve her body image. The comparison is self-defeating. Women who are models have very different body types and weigh 23% less than women who are not models.
Families can add to the struggle. Family members who have had difficulties with their own body images may be harsh about the body images of their children or siblings. In general, criticism and teasing can have negative effects on just about anyone.
Build a Positive Body Image
When you look in the mirror, are you okay with who you see? If the answer is no, you are not alone. Many people have body image issues. You can improve your body image by changes in perception. You attitude may not be so much about how you look as much as how you think you look.
Begin by not judging yourself by the opinions of other people. Family and friends can influence us only if we let them. Do not define your body image by what other people think. Even physicians who give health advice can affect how a person feels about herself.
Improve Your Self Image
If you wish to hush critics, begin with yourself.
Self-deprecation needs to stop. You do not need to be harsh with yourself or make jokes about yourself. Others will be less inclined to do so if you stop leading the way.
Develop a positive attitude about who you are, and grow comfortable with your body just as it is. Start to seek out what is positive. Project a positive attitude that will enhance positive opinions about you. This will reinforce your own positive image.
The shape and size of your body is your business alone. If you are feeling some dissatisfaction, identify things you can change. Start small and simple to boost your confidence.
Compliment yourself daily for your good acts. Negative self-talk and faulty thinking will not lead to success. Recognize you are okay just as you are and improving every day.
In addition, keep in mind that you may not be seeing yourself the same as others see you. Chances are that many people are comfortable with you just as you are.
Should you find yourself struggling with body image, seek professional help. You will feel good about yourself knowing you have the good sense to reach out when you need to. Support services can be found through a Google Search for “therapy for body image” or though your health insurance provider network.
In good health,