Body image refers to how we perceive our bodies, the control we feel over our body, and how we compare ourselves to others. Our body image is not constant, it fluctuates on a spectrum between positive and negative. Those with a positive body image have a realistic understanding of the size, shape and function of their bodies. Others who have a distorted view and are anxious, shameful or guilty about their bodies struggle with a negative body image.
Approximately 80% of women and 50% of men report being dissatisfied with some part of their bodies. Men and women differ as to to which body part causes the most concern:
Most of us face some kind of dissatisfaction with our bodies at least once in a lifetime. It is normal to have occasional doubts or slight issues with our appearance. Problems develop when people have more bad days than good and experience consistent stress and worry about their bodies.
For those who do struggle with a negative body image, here are some tips to encourage a more authentic view of self:
Concentrate on your genes, NOT your jeans
Not all of us were meant to be a size 0 and weigh 115 lbs. A small frame will forever remain an unattainable goal for some. Take into account the structure of your body (i.e., bones, muscle mass, where you carry weight) and assess your family members to determine what is possible for your body.
Focus on health
Instead of striving to be thin or to look like someone else, make being healthy your goal. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep will increase your metabolism and make you feel better about yourself.
Accentuate the positive
Instead of focusing on what is wrong, celebrate what is right. What are the things that you do well? Highlighting positive qualities increases your mood which indirectly affects how you look and how you think you look.
Get a support system
Surround yourself with positive people. Increase the time spent with those who validate you and who have a positive image of themselves. Limit your exposure to toxic people who put you down and make you feel bad.
Say NO to negative images
Limit your exposure to media that values and promotes an unhealthy ideal. Magazines, movies, and commercials can subconsciously make you feel bad and critical of your body. For example, when I watch t.v. I do not watch commercials. I take this time to check the weather, get something from another room, or send a quick text message.
All of these can help to slowly turn your negative body image into a more positive one. They are also good for those with a positive image, in helping them keep up the good work.