What is Body Image?
According to Rice University, “body image is the way you perceive and relate to your body, and how you think others see you.” Your body image can be heavily influenced by your culture, the media and your peers. We are constantly receiving messages about how we should feel and think about our bodies, making it hard to remember that our body image should be our choice.
When you have a positive body image, you see yourself in a realistic way and accept and appreciate your natural body shape. Someone with a positive body image carries themselves with confidence, and knows that their self-worth is not tied to their weight or appearance.
But it can be easy to fall into the trap of a negative body image. This means that your perception of your body is distorted, that you see your body as a sign of personal failure or a reason to feel ashamed. Someone with a negative body image feels self-conscious and uncomfortable with their body. They are prone to negative thoughts about their body and making comparisons to others.
Having a negative body image can start you down a slippery slope to such issues as depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and social withdrawal. If you are struggling with a negative body image, here are some things you can do:
Rethinking Body Image
Top 10 List
Make a top ten list of the things you like about yourself that are not related to your weight or looks. When you have a negative body image, your weight and your body consumes you to the point where it becomes the most important thing about you. Its important to keep in mind that you are more than your body – much more. Start with ten things, but make sure to add to the list. The more positive things you can find about yourself, the better you’ll feel.
Your Body is Not the Enemy
With a negative body image, it can feel like your body is against you. In order to cultivate a positive body image, you’ll need to work with your body and treat it like an ally. Wear clothes that compliment your body type and help you feel comfortable with yourself. Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry, rest when you are tired. Treat your body with love and you may come to actually love it.
Do the Things You Enjoy
Have you stopped doing some of the activities you enjoy because they call attention to your body or weight? Have you lost some of the enjoyment you used to feel? Don’t keep yourself from getting the most out of life. Reclaim your favorite past times and let go of any shame you might be feeling.
Limit Mirror Gazing
You don’t have to cover all the mirrors in your home, but if you find yourself staring too long at the mirror, picking out flaws, then its probably a good idea to limit your mirror use. This may seem like a simple fix for a complex problem but if your mirror’s got you down, it can do a lot of good to just step away from it.
If exercise isn’t a part of your life, make sure to add it even if it’s just a little. Staying active can boost your mood and help you think more favorably about your body. But be careful not to let exercising become a stressor because you’re focused so much on losing pounds and sculpting your body. Make sure you exercise for the joy of being in motion and growing stronger.
Take the Media with a Grain of Salt
Be critical of what you see in the media. Analyze how certain tv shows, commercials, magazine images or song lyrics make you feel about your body. Ask yourself whether these messages about body image are healthy or realistic. Don’t let the media control how you feel about yourself – remember, you get to decide your own body image.
Above all, remember that life is too short to waste time hating your body. Every second you spend agonizing over your weight could be spent laughing, loving and getting the most out of life. If your problems with body image are severe, you may want to seek the help of others. Confide in a loved one or consult a therapist. Remember that you don’t have to fight it alone.