Body image is how we think and feel about our bodies, and how we believe others see us.
When we talk about body image, there are lots of ways we can think about our body and the way we look. You might find that there are days when you like your body, or parts of your body. Or there maybe days / weeks when you don’t like what’s staring back at you. Body image is not just tied to our weight, it can also be things like:
- Making unrealistic comparisons with friends or people you follow on social media that may have edited their photos
- struggling to love and accept your body, even looking at yourself in the mirror
- feeling as though your body shape is not normal or ideal unrepresented in the media
- hiding or covering up your body because you feel ashamed by it
- feeling like you are not attractive enough, not worthy enough of love from others
- birthmarks, surgery scars or acne affecting how you feel about how you look, you become fixated on them
- feeling as though your body does not match your gender, or that your body doesn’t look ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ enough.
How does body image affect mental health
Body image can have affect mental health. Feeling negatively about yourself can make your mood lower, constant negative thoughts about yourself may lead to low or no self esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Creating these negative thought patterns and associating it with yourself, your image in particular can lead to bouts of depression, OCD around eating and behaviours related to the body and also anxiety and paranoia. When we are feeling so low about or bodies, we may become obsessive towards them, so paranoid that people are staring at specific hangs up that we have. Like a scar, body shape or specific body part we hate.
How can we improve our body image
Whilst we can make changes that effect how our bodies look and feel, the change must come from within and the way we think about our bodies. Starting to appreciate our bodies, that they enable us to do amazing things, celebrating what we have rather than focusing on what we are missing from our bodies is a good place to start. Meditation helps calm the mind but also allows the focus on the body and how you feel in your body right now. Practicing this, grounding yourself and accepting all of the parts of your body can be a good way to build a positive relationship with yourself and the body that you are in.
Are you comparing yourself to others on social media? Remind yourselves these individuals market themselves and their bodies as a job. The photos are hand picked and edited accordingly. Realities are very different from Instagram and taking a day off, or maybe longer from socials just to start appreciating your own body could really boost your own self esteem and confidence. Alternatively, why not search body positive influencers that keep it real and always post inspirational and affirming posts. What works for one may not work for another but acknowledge that your relationship with your body may be great some days and very low on others, but all bodies are perfectly normal in their own way.