Body image: two words that have become more and more prominent in the media world as the days keep passing. It is used both positively and negatively. But if you’re hearing for the first time, what kind of image does it conjure? What does body image mean to you?
Does it connote happiness, contentment, or love? Or perhaps, the term implies a darker set of emotions into you?
The technical definition of body image as determined by NEDC (National Eating Disorders Collaboration) is “a person’s perception of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings, positive, negative or both, which result from that perception.”
In turn, this is primarily influenced by the environment.
And with a heavy saturation of the “ideal” body type present in both male and female cultures, the pressure to “look good” and to “stay fit” puts a heavy burden on everybody’s shoulders.
Its Negative Effect
Society has supposedly set a bar by which everyone should aim to reach. But these good intentions cave beneath the weight of that bar. Because that bar isn’t just a bar anymore. Because of the ridicule surrounding those who aren’t deemed capable enough to reach it, the bar has become a stigma.
The Albert Ellis Institute has this to say about body image and society and how it can affect us individually.
“In a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals, it is challenging to not get caught up in comparing oneself to these unrealistic standards. As a result, many individuals may experience depression, anxiety, anger and even self-loathing. In addition to affecting an individual’s view of self, poor body image may also result in avoidance of social situations and may interfere with developing healthy social and romantic relationships.”
(You can read more about how body image relates to several disorders at Good Therapy.)
Body image depends mostly on a person’s perception of himself. In knowing this, there is a bright side to the predicament. This means you can turn the dismal situation around, very much like overcoming the negativity bias.
A Better Me
It’s effortless to tell people to love themselves and to appreciate what they have and how their bodies are shaped. But just like any other piece of advice that exists in the world, it’s easier said than done.
How can you tell people to be content when they are evidently dissatisfied with their body image?
Overcoming negative body perception takes time and acceptance. Lots of daily acceptance.
Positive vs. Negative
Look at your own attitude, prejudice, and behavior towards food intake, weight, fitness, and overall physical appearance. For instance, when you find yourself constantly using photoshop to alter your body’s appearance, pause for a moment and think about why you do it.
Also, consider hanging out with more positive-minded people more often. Environment plays a big part when it comes to body image. And it’s easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
And most important of all, shut down the voices inside your head telling you that your body isn’t right. You’re a bad-looking person. Don’t talk down to yourself. The next time you find yourself drowning in self-deprecating thoughts, turn it around and build yourself back up. Affirm and encourage yourself daily.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Cutting down on food and skipping important meals just to meet weight goals will do you no favors. You might meet your weight goal, but the consequences can be health hazardous, and in some cases, turn life-threatening.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight or wanting to stay trim and fit. But if your methods are leaning towards self-destruction, start taking healthier options to meet your goals.
Mindful eating and healthy physical activity are part of a well-rounded lifestyle. Ensure balance and moderation in everything you do — eating, physical activity, etc. Eat in response to body hunger — not as punishment or mode of fulfillment.
Too much of something can be bad, after all.
Learn to Appreciate Yourself
Do nice things for yourself. Never hesitate to indulge in activities and hobbies that will bring you happiness and wellness. (Self-destructive activities don’t count.)
Also, always keep in mind that beauty goes beyond the surface of the skin. See yourself as a whole person. Don’t focus on specific aspects of yourself and start thinking about how inferior it is compared to everyone else’s. See yourself as you want others to see you.
You are the Way You Are
Your outer appearance doesn’t completely define who you are. It is but a fraction of the lovely person that is you.
You are the way you are, so why should you feel sorry about anything? You’re you, and you’re beautiful.
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