Body image is a very important topic in today’s society. We are exposed to extremely high expectations regarding our shape and fitness and are constantly told what is “beautiful” or not.
Even though it is said that “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,” there seem to be certain beauty standards that are generally accepted. These can vary between countries, but the important point here is that they exist. The term “body image” is defined as the relationship we have to our body in the context of these societal norms and how we feel about how we look.
Types of body image issues
Logically, there are two different types of body images. You can either have a positive or negative body image. People with a positive body image like their body how it is and appreciate it that way. They don’t rely on it as a source of self-worth and are confident about their appearance.
On the other hand, a negative body image often leads to self-consciousness and insecurity, as the person is not happy about how they look. People with a negative perception about their looks often have a higher risk of developing eating disorders or mental illnesses.
The most extreme case of a negative body image is called body dysmorphic disorder. People with this illness have an overly negative image of themselves that can lead to compulsive and repetitive actions that are meant to make the perceived flaws to disappear. An example for this would be skin picking. For a person with BDD a lot of imperfections that are minor or not visible to others become extremely important to them.
People that deal with BDD can experience feelings of shame and sometimes isolate themselves from others because of that. BDD can also coincide with other mental illnesses and increases the probability to suffer from anxiety or depression.
Tips on how to deal with a negative body image
It goes without saying that you don’t have to follow any steps when you have a positive body image. But in case you do have a lot of negative thoughts about your body, you might want to consider a few of the following ideas. When you think you might be suffering from BDD, these steps likely won’t be enough, so make sure to get in contact with an expert in this field.
Be aware of what you look at on social media
This might sound a little lame, but trying to stay away from negative or body shaming posts on social media can already make a big difference in your self-perception. If everyone is telling you you need to look like a clothing rack to be beautiful, it is no wonder that we start questioning ourselves and have negative thoughts about our body. Having more positive thoughts can also be reached by searching out body positivity pages or posts.
Don’t compare yourself to others
Not comparing yourself to others automatically becomes easier when you are already are following the first step. However, you also should not compare yourself to the people around you. You are an amazing and unique person, there is nobody like you and there never will be. Embrace that and try to accept and love all of you.
Recognise negative thoughts
This one is important, because often we don’t even realise when we are holding ourselves down. We have gotten used to the voice in our head that tells us that we aren’t good enough. So, try to pay attention to your thoughts and when you identify one of these negative thoughts ask yourself the question: Would I ever say this to someone else? If not, why in world should you be harder on yourself than others? You deserve to receive just as much love from yourself as you give love to the people around you.
Stop punishing yourself
This one is related to eating. If you are trying to maintain a diet that’s fine. If you don’t want to do a diet, also perfectly fine. You should not punish yourself for eating unhealthy stuff once in a while. You should not punish yourself for breaking the diet. Don’t feel bad because you binge ate on the day before your period. It is important to eat healthy, sure, but that does not mean that we need to punish ourselves every time we eat something different than salad. Taking care of your body and staying healthy doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat chocolate again. It involves getting enough sleep as well as drinking enough water and getting the right nutrition.
Try to accept your body the way it is
This is of course easier said than done, but it is more about the small steps and the journey until you reach this point. This will not happen from one day to another. It takes time and a lot of practicing the other points, but it is really important to learn to love yourself just the way you are and not only when you have reached a certain look.
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About the Author
Nadine is studying Economics abroad and takes a high interest in emotional and mental well-being. Her blog Home of Understanding features posts related to mental health and illnesses, self-care and societal issues. The blog was created at the beginning of this year out of a sudden notion that many topics are not discussed enough in our society but deserve a lot more attention. It is the blogs goal to raise awareness of these topics and motivate people to do more research on aspects and ideas they have not encountered before.