What is body image?
Body image refers to how an individual sees their own body and how attractive they feel themselves to be. Many people have concerns about their body image. These concerns often focus on weight, skin, hair, or the shape or size of a certain body part. Some new technologies also assist people in this area such as 3D FBS200 scanning.
However, body image does not only stem from what we see in the mirror. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), a range of beliefs, experiences, and generalizations also contribute.
Throughout history, people have given importance to the beauty of the human body. Society, media, social media, and popular culture often shape these views, and this can affect how a person sees their own body. However, popular standards are not always helpful.
Constant bombardment by media images can cause people to feel uncomfortable about their bodies, leading to distress and ill health. It can also affect work, social life, and other aspects of life. This article will look at positive and negative body image and provide some tips on how to improve body image.
Negative Body Image
Symptoms of unhealthy or negative body image may include:
- obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors
- thinking disparaging comments about your body and frequent comparison of your own shape and size to other people
- envy or a friend’s body, or just as commonly: the body of a celebrity or someone else in the media.
Causes of Negative Body Image
Sometimes body image is negatively impacted by one or more significant events. For example, a gymnast who is continually chided by her coach and fellow athletes to lose a little weight may develop a deeply ingrained and long-standing dissatisfaction with her body, no matter how thin she becomes.
If you are concerned about your body image, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Is my perception of beauty distorted from years of media exposure that glorifies a very thin ideal that is unrealistic for most people to obtain in a healthy manner?
Do I find myself regularly criticizing my own appearance?
Positive Body Image
When a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body, they may be described as having a positive body image. This is not the same as body satisfaction, as you can be dissatisfied with aspects of your body, yet still be able to accept it for all its limitations. Positive body image is important because it is one of the protective factors which can make a person less susceptible to developing an eating disorder.
A positive body image is associated with:
Higher self-esteem, which dictates how a person feels about themselves, can impact on every aspect of life and contribute to happiness and well-being.
Self-acceptance, making a person more likely to feel comfortable and happy with the way they look and less likely to feel impacted by unrealistic images in the media and societal pressures to look a certain way.
Having a healthy outlook and behaviors, as it is easier to lead a balanced lifestyle with healthier attitudes and practices relating to food and exercise when you are in tune with, and respond to, the needs of your body.
10 STEPS TO POSITIVE BODY IMAGE
One list cannot automatically tell you how to turn negative body thoughts into positive body image, but it can introduce you to healthier ways of looking at yourself and your body. The more you practice these new thought patterns, the better you will feel about who you are and the body you naturally have.
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you — as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message.
- Do something nice for yourself — something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, or find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
Social media effects and eating disorders
The rise of social media usage in today’s society can have many different effects on body image and the later development of eating disorders in many individuals. Research clearly shows that media exposure contributes to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Unfortunately, social networks shape the way we think about beauty. With constant exposure to images posted online, it is evident that there is a link to how individuals compare themselves and perceive their own bodies. There are an estimated 3.6 billion users worldwide on social media, therefore there must be negative and positive effects linked with social media users.
A negative body image can cause unrealistic expectations of how your body should look and can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors and disordered eating. Studies have found a correlation between the time spent on social media and a negative body image. The correlation is especially true when participants were scrolling through appearance-related content, like accounts of a fitness instructor or model on Instagram. Social media images are filled with people presenting the best version of themselves. Social media can then hurt your body image by constantly exposing yourself to the ideal body type, leading to constant comparison of yourself to unrealistic standards. Additionally, photoshop and filters are readily available to users playing into the unrealistic body image.
However, social media can also have positive effects on body image and can promote body positivity. Viewing body-positive content on social media platforms can help individuals become more accepting and appreciative of their bodies. Additionally, social media can connect you with others to build a body-accepting community.
It is important to examine ways to use social media in a positive way to avoid a negative body image. It is important to take a break from social media if you feel worse after using it.
Additionally, examine who you are following on social media and unfollow accounts if they do not make you feel good. Instead, pay attention to accounts, people, and images that lift you up. Follow accounts that promote body positivity that does not agree with the beauty standards set by society. Finding body-positive accounts and joining support groups can help shift your mindset about the ideal body image set by society. Furthermore, you can use your own social media to be an advocate for positive body talk. Shout out to media outlets, retailers, advertisers, and celebrity product endorsers who celebrate and promote natural looks, healthy body size, and diverse body shapes. You can take a stand and refuse to read, view, or listen to media or buy advertised products that do not promote a healthy and diverse body image.