The forbidden topic of body image. We all have body image, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It is completely natural to develop feelings about how we look and wonder how others see us. But it’s also important to understand what it means to have a healthy body image. Not liking aspects of your body is one thing but developing negative feelings about your body and allowing those feeling to shape the perception of yourself as a whole is another. Today I want to define for you what body image is, and how negative body image can truly lead down a disruptive path of shame and self loathing. In the coming weeks I will also cover body image and touch, and body image and nutrition.
Positive body image
Going beyond simple perceptions of how you look, body image also encompasses feelings and thought. How we process these thoughts are what ultimately shape and lay the foundation of how we treat and respect our body.
People with positive body image understand that physical appearance has nothing to do with self worth. Sure there might be minor things about themselves they wish were different but overall, they have realistic perceptions of their body and are comfortable in their own skin. People with a healthy or positive body image are able to value themselves and appreciate themselves in their natural shape. They also understand that beauty comes in many forms, shapes and sizes and don’t feel the need to drastically change or alter their bodies to conform with the illusion of the “perfect body”.
Negative body image
Unrealistic expectations can lead to a distorted perception of the body that causes people to feel shame, anxiety or guilt about their body. Am I thin enough? Am I too thin? Believing you are not beautiful and equating these negative feeling with self worth are signs of a negative body image. Feeling this uncomfortable in your own skin can lead to unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors such as extreme dieting and excessive exercising. In many case, unhealthy or negative body image has lead to eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia in an extreme effort to reshape a distorted perception.
Where does body image come from?
The manner in which we perceive our bodies is a learned behavior that starts at an early age and continues on into adulthood . According to the National Eating Disorder Association 42% of girls in 1st to 3rd grade want to be thinner; and girls 80% of 10 year old girls have a fear of being “fat”. Where are these young girls learning these perceptions at such an early age? Immediate family, friends and the Media are the primarily influencers in establishing the value of body image : negative or positive. And unfortunately the Media is a powerful source of information that has successfully misguided women (and men) of all ages into perceiving and internalizing negative thoughts and feelings about themselves based on unrealistic body standards.
We need to stop the nonsense…
These unrealistic body standards are not ideal. As a matter of fact, they are physically impossible to attain by 95% of the population. No matter of dieting, exercising or wishful thinking can will this a possibility. Yet we continue to accept these distorted realities as the norm. Negative body image not only affects those with negative body image, it promotes a culture of negative body image that can be obsessive or compulsive. For those with extreme cases, it leads to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a condition in which people become so obsessed with their distorted body perception that it negatively affects their jobs and personal relationships.
Positive body image is cultivated over years of consciously making the effort to know, understand and accept your body and self. It’s not always easy and I know that truly embracing yourself takes time; and often times requires addressing a deeper issue in order to heal and move forward. If you are struggling with unhealthy body image, I encourage you to look within yourself and ask why. If you would like my assistance, please contact me to schedule a one-on-one session to discuss.
I invite you to check my 3 other blogs about body image