Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Body Image is a person’s perception of their physical self and thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative.
Your body image is how you perceive, think, and feel about your body. This can include your body’s size, shape, and weight, skin, hair, or individual body parts. The image may not be directly related to your actual appearance. A person may think and feel that their body is much larger or smaller than it is.
These self-perceptions can affect the lifestyle of both men and women of all ages.
What is Body Image?
There are four aspects of body image;
The way you see yourself (Perceptual)
The way you feel about the way you look (Affective)
The thoughts and beliefs you feel about your body (Cognitive)
The things you do in reaction to the way you look (Behavioural)
Body image does not only stem from what we see In the mirror. A range of beliefs, experiences, and generalizations also contribute.
Where does body image come from?
For me my negative body image started in the home with teasing remarks from Mum and Dad about my weight and behind, "It's just puppy fat, she will grow out of it." My brother and his friends would tease me and I was bullied relentlessly at school. I became self-conscious and shy about my body, my self-esteem plummeted and I hid away from the world.
I had a very negative body image right from primary school age till my late thirties. I tried diet after diet, this fad and that fad, exercise, and gym, a dietician, doctors, and even went to the extreme of liposuction surgery.
I had to learn to accept and love my curves, body shape, and every bit of me. This took me over thirty years to do, and I still work on this today.
Body image has had a huge impact on my life. To read more about my personal battles with this please see my books "The New Zealand Dream, The seeds are sown and Growth and destruction. By Sheila" These can be purchased through me if you are from New Zealand or Australia or go to Amazon.
Throughout history, people have given importance to the beauty of the human body. Society, media, social media, and culture often shape these views, this can affect how a person sees their own body.
Popular standards are not always helpful. Constant bombardment by media images can cause people to feel uncomfortable about their bodies, leading to stress and ill health. It can affect work, school, social life, and many aspects of life.
A body image does not develop in isolation. Culture, family, and friends all convey positive and negative messages about the body.
The media peers and family members can all influence a person’s body image. They can encourage people, even from a young age, to believe that there is an ideal body. The image is often an unnatural one.
The fashion industry also sets an unhealthy example when they employ underweight models to display their products.
Discrimination based on race, size, ability, gender orientations, and age also plays a role. People can start to feel that they do not measure up or that they are somehow lacking.
Illness and accidents can have an impact. Skin conditions and surgery cause people to rethink how they appear to themselves and to others.
Emotional insecurity also contributes to a negative body image.
Why is it important?
A negative body image feels dissatisfied with their body and their appearance.
A negative body image can contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders, and other conditions.
The person may;
Compare themselves with others and feel inadequate when doing so.
Feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Lack confidence or feel awkward in their body.
See parts of their body in a distorted way.
Have body disapproving conversations which can lead to low mood or negative eating patterns.
Having a negative body image can lead to the development of mental health issues, such as depression.
A person may presume unnecessary surgery, unsafe weight loss, or weight gain habits.
When a person has a positive body image, they understand that their sense of self-worth does not depend on their appearance.
Having a positive body image includes;
Accepting and appreciating the whole of one’s body, what it can do and how it looks.
Having a broad concept of beauty.
Having a body image that is stable.
Having Inner positivity.
Confidence and control are also key factors, focussing on building self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive body image reduces stress and health problems.
Tips for improving body image;
Spend time with people who have a positive outlook.
Practice positive self-talk.
Wear comfortable clothes that look good on you.
Avoid comparing yourself to others.
Remember that beauty is not just about appearance.
Appreciate what your body can do, such as laughing, dancing, and creating.
Be actively critical of media messages and images that make you feel as if you should be different.
Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself.
See yourself as a whole person, not an imperfect body part.
Do something nice for your body, such as getting a massage or a haircut.
Instead of spending time thinking about your body, start a hobby, become a volunteer, or do something else that makes you feel good about yourself.
Aim for a healthier lifestyle, which might include eating a varied and nutritious diet.
A person with a positive body image will feel confident in their appearance and in what their body can do.
If feelings about one’s body are causing distress, it may be beneficial to see a mental health professional. They can help a person explore the reasons for these concerns and find ways to resolve them.