A person's body image includes...
- How we perceive our bodies visually
- How we feel about our physical appearance
- How we think and talk to ourselves about our bodies
- Our sense of how other people view our bodies
- Our sense of our bodies in physical space (kinesthetic perception)
- Our level of connectedness to our bodies
Messages regarding body image come from a variety of sources and can be positive, negative, or somewhere in between.
Body image dissatisfaction is highly linked to the development and maintenance of eating disorders. People with negative body image are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.
We all may have days when we feel awkward or uncomfortable in our bodies.
The key to developing a positive body image is to recognize and respect our natural shape and learn to overpower those negative thoughts and feelings with positive, affirming, and accepting ones.
Strategies for Positive Body Image
- Reconnect with and listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry. Rest when you are tired. Trust that your body knows what it needs.
- Appreciate what your body can do. Every day your body moves you. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you such as dance, play, run, breath, dream, enjoy good food and give hugs!
- Keep a list of things you like about yourself that aren't related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read the list often. Add to it as you recognize more things to like about yourself. Remind yourself of this list often.
- Remind yourself that beauty goes beyond what people look like. 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 the 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 who are supportive and understand why it's important to like yourself just as you naturally are.
- Change the messages you are giving yourself. You can overpower negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, make a decision to replace that self-talk with more realistic, loving, and positive statements.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Move with your head held high. If you act like someone with a healthy body image and good self-confidence, the “act” will eventually become reality.
- Exercise to feel good and be healthy, not to lose weight or punish your body. Find fun ways to add more physical activity in your life, such as going for a walk with a friend.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. 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. Set your own standards instead of letting the media set them for you.
- Do something nice for yourself 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.
If you find yourself continuing to struggle with body image despite your best efforts, it might be time to consider professional help.
Adapted from National Eating Disorders Body Image information