Our bodies are all different, and thank goodness for that, how dull would the world be if we all looked the same. However, many of us have body image issues stemming from low self-esteem or a lack of confidence. Our perception of the perfect body is a pipe dream; we should focus on our current body, not the one in the future or the one we had in the past.
(This article is part of my free CBT resource)
A poor body image can be devastating to someones mental health, and I, for one, know all too well having body image issues can affect the mind. I’ve never been happy with how I look until several months ago, and I’m still working on it and using the information in this article. I hope you will be able to work on your own body issues.
Your body image is the perception you have of your physical self. But more importantly, it is the thoughts and feelings which go along with this which results in the perception. These thoughts and feelings can be positive, negatives or a combination. They are influenced by you and your current daily interactions with others.
Since the advent of social media, there has never been such an onslaught of poor body image; what with people trying to hide their true self via filters and various photo retouching apps when their true self is perfect just the way they are. Even on dating sites, people filter their image and then meet someone only for that person not to be interested as they have been fed a lie about the true looks of someone. Honesty is always the best policy in this case.
Knowing all the ways we can enhance ourselves these days puts extra stress on us; we are told to look a certain way, be a certain weight, have thick luscious hair, have eyelashes as long as our fingers, be muscular, be skinny, be tall, be athletic, we are told to be so much that no wonder we end up hating the body we live in or hating aspects of our features.
But all of the above is to sell products and procedures; we are perfect as we are.
The Four Aspects of Body Image
The Way You See Yourself (Perceptual)
The way you see your body is not always correct; you may perceive yourself to be overweight when in reality, you are underweight. Perceptual body image is how a person sees themselves.
The Way You Feel About The Way You Look (Affective)
There are things a person may like or dislike about the way they look. Your feelings about your body and especially the satisfaction or dissatisfaction you experience in your appearance, weight, shape, and body parts are your affective body image.
The Thoughts and Beliefs You Feel About Your Body (Cognitive)
Some people believe they will feel better about themselves if they look thinner, more muscular etc. The way you think about your body is your cognitive image.
The Things Your Do About The Way You Look (Behavioural)
When a person has body image issues and is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may begin destructive behaviours such as excessive exercising or disordered eating to change their appearance. Some people may isolate themselves away because they feel bad about how they look. Behaviours in which you engage as a result of your body image issues encompasses your behavioural body image.
What’s Your Body Image Issues?
|Do you find yourself obsessing about your body?|
|Do you ever put off activities or relationships until you are a certain size?|
|Would losing or gaining weight make you feel like you were a better person?|
|Do you see certain foods as good or bad?|
|Do you feel guilty after you eat?|
|Do you feel uncomfortable in your body?|
|Have you used unhealthy ways to gain or lose weight?|
|Do you feel you can only be happy if you are a certain size?|
|Do you find yourself thinking negatively about your body?|
|Do you think changing parts of your body would make parts of your life better?|
If you answered yes to less than four of these questions, you have a healthy body image.
If you answered yes to more than four of these questions, you probably don’t fully accept and respect your body image.
Why is Body Image So Important?
Self-esteem will dictate how a person feels about themselves, which can infiltrate into other parts of your life. The higher your self-esteem, the easier you will find it to stay on top of the stresses and strains of daily life. You will be more sociable, and this will, in turn, lead to happiness, contentment and wellbeing.
The more positive a person’s thoughts about their body, the more likely they will be happy and confident within themselves. They accept what they look like. A person with a positive body image is far less likely to be disturbed by the so-called perfect body in the media and social media pressures.
When you are in tune with your body and respond to its needs, your physical and psychological outlook changes. You have a healthy outlook, and so your behaviour changes for the better. A positive body image will lead to a balanced lifestyle with healthier attitudes and practices towards food and exercise.
If you have body image issues, you can become fixated on trying to change your actual body shape. This can lead to unhealthy practices with food and exercise. It can lead to depression and anxiety when you don’t hit the target you want to achieve. It could also lead to an eating disorder.
How to Change Your Body Image Perception
- It would help if you focused on your positive qualities, skills, and talents, either natural or learned. This can help you to accept and appreciate your whole being. Remember, you are far more than just your body.
- Say positive things to yourself every day in the form of positive affirmations; when you start to do this often enough, you begin to believe it.
- Avoid self-talk, which brings you down. Would you say it to a friend? If you wouldn’t, then stop saying it to yourself.
- What can your body do, can it run and jump, can it dance and have fun? Focus on what your body can do rather than what it can’t do. It will help you to feel more positive about it.
- Instead of focusing on weight-related goals, switch your mindset to engage in practices that promote wellbeings, such as sports or the gym. Remember, many normal or underweight people are unfit, but many physically active people, such as rugby players, are higher than average body weight. It is not about your weight. It is what your body can do. If your body can take you from A to B easily, you have a good body. If your body can dance or play with the kids, your body is good.
- Stop comparing. We are all unique, and these differences are what makes each one of us special. Admiring the beauty in others can help you to feel better about yourself. But you must accept the beauty of yourself so you can feel comfortable in your own skin rather than face body image issues. You are more than your body; you have a mind, a spirit, a soul, talents, gifts etc.
- Avoid looking at images that will affect you. Make a conscious effort to understand the images portrayed in magazines and the media are unrealistic; they are for advertising, they are idealised and unachievable. They have been digitally altered and do not represent what the person really looks like, plus they have lighting and screens plus myriads of make-up to hide things or highlight areas.
Make Yourself Feel Good
Grab yourself a pen and write down all the things you wear which make you feel good. It could be a favourite jumper or t-shirt, a skirt or a pair of shorts. Then write down how it makes you feel when you are wearing that item; if it is a jumper, you might write cosy, secure and comfortable.
Now rearrange your wardrobe, so all your favourite clothing items are visible first and bag up all the clothing which makes you feel uncomfy and sad. You don’t need that clothing; donate it to charity. Just keep the clothing which you feel good in.
So what is the one thing you are going to try today to make yourself feel good?
And what is the one thing you are going to stop doing today to make yourself feel good?
You are unique, and everything about you is different, from your eye colour to the shape of your fingerprints; there is no one else like you. You are more than the body you reside in; you have talents and skills which others will want, you can achieve your dreams in this body; it is the only you have.
Peace & Blessings