Body image is not what you actually look like but refers to your personal relationship and perception of your body. More specifically, body image can be defined as the subjective opinion that you have of your body when you picture yourself or actually look in the mirror. It involves your feelings, beliefs, perceptions, thoughts and actions regarding your body. Most people, regardless of even age or gender, struggle with body image issues.
It was actually reported in a recent study that 54% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance, many of which being specifically directed towards areas like their abdomen (71%) as well as body weight (66%) and muscle tone (58%). Similar statistics were seen in males, too, with 43% being dissatisfied with their overall appearance (Psychology Today).
Body image is a huge global issue, affecting even the likelihood of individuals socializing because of how they feel about themselves. As it is so widespread, it is important to be active in fighting intrusive and depressive thoughts about body image. If you feel that you have impaired self-esteem, or loathe certain aspects of your body, try your hand at these 9 ways to encourage a positive body image:
- Talk back to those loud voices in your head that tell you your body is “bad,” “fat,” or “disgusting”. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Some examples include: I am beautiful, I am strong, etc.
- Frequently remind yourself that there is no such thing as one “ideal” body weight based on your height. Each one of us has a healthy weight based on our body type, bone structure, muscle mass, genetics, what weight we feel our best at, and at what weight our body tends to want to maintain.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are your own person, and you are beautiful for it!
- Celebrate your body and the wonderful things it can do when you are healthy and fit. So often, we take these things for granted; if you are healthy, that is a reason to be happy!
- Move and enjoy your body! Go walking, swimming, biking, or even dancing. Challenge yourself by doing yoga, aerobics, and weight training. Do these things not because you have to, because it will help you feel healthy, strong, and energized.
- Surround yourself with people who have a healthy relationship with food, weight and their bodies. I know it may be a small population, but they do exist. It will make a difference in how you feel about yourself.
- Reclaim your own inner strength. Focus on the unique qualities and personality traits that make you a special and successful person!
- Nurture your inner and outer-self — Pamper yourself with things/activities you find relaxing (e.g. music, bubble baths, fragrances, candles, massages, reading, writing, napping), be close to nature (e.g. garden, sunsets, beach, stars), and/or seek spiritual connection (e.g. prayer, meditation, inspirational reading, reflection). Feeling good on the inside is key to feeling good on the outside.
- Examine the degree to which your self-esteem depends upon your appearance, and make yourself aware of it. Although it may seem natural to wish you looked like a fashion model or a body builder, basing your happiness on this desire may lead to feelings of failure.
Remember, we all have our days when we feel self-conscious or uncomfortable in our bodies, but the key to developing positive body image is to respect and recognize our natural shape. Learn to conquer and replace those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, accepting and affirming ones!
Dr. Kim Feinstein, Psy. D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Red Mountain’s Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. She specializes in weight management, body image concerns, and eating disorders. She prides herself in her ability to educate, guide, and inspire patients to overcome obstacles and ultimately achieve their goals.