Trigger Warning: The passage you are about to read contains eating disorder thoughts and discussion.
What is a Positive Body Image?
A positive body image is the concept of feeling good about your appearance and confident with your body regardless of how you may look. However, it is common for people to struggle with being happy with how they look. I used to struggle with it too. Here, we will discuss what causes body image issues, the outcomes of a negative body image, and some things that can be done to help you overcome body image issues.
Who Most Often Struggles With Body Image Issues And Why Do People Struggle With Body Positivity?
In our society, females tend to struggle with their body image more than men, however, men often struggle with being satisfied with their appearance as well. Societal expectations, social media, fashion, and modelling tends to enforce unrealistic expectations of what is considered flawless and perfect bodies. Photo editing is often used to make one appear idealistic and beautiful. It can be hard to separate these expectations from reality and whether a photograph is photoshopped or not. Consequently, people feel bound to adhere to these standards and compare themselves to others such as their peers, friends, and models, creating body image issues as they realize that they can’t appear perfect the way it is portrayed in society.
How Does a Negative Body Image Affect One’s Actions?
A negative body image can lead to very self-destructive behavior. It is common to fall into an endless loop of constant comparison to others, low self esteem, negative thought patterns, eating disorders, and over scrutinizing your appearance. Particularly in females, bulimia and anorexia often develop because women dramatically change their eating habits to get the body they want. For me, I used to regularly compare myself to others which led to low self-esteem and negative thoughts about how I look, along with hyper-fixating on every flaw I saw in the mirror.
What Are Some Ways To Improve How You Feel About Your Appearance?
Here are some things I have done to make myself feel more comfortable in my skin.
Positive affirmations– these don’t have to be like the affirmations you may find online. For me, even saying simple things to myself in the mirror like “I’m beautiful” or high-fiving yourself in the mirror has a significant impact on the way I perceived myself because I started focusing on accepting my appearance as it is instead of scrutinizing every flaw and slowly changing my mindset more positively instead of resorting to the loop of negative thoughts that led to low self-esteem.
Stop comparing yourself to others and limit your time on social media– I know this is much easier said than done and I still struggle with it, but doing this helps greatly. Personally, I took time during quarantine and weekends to focus on feeling good about how I look without thinking about others’ appearances. This helped me feel better about myself. For social media, most photos are edited, we all know that, so I limited exposure to them so I didn’t develop unrealistic standards of myself. Furthermore, focusing on parts of my body that I thought looked nice helped me feel more confident in my appearance because I slowly begun to realize that I am not simply ugly for there are parts of me that are already quite beautiful.
Working out- Working out helped me tremendously with being more confident with my body. When I started to notice positive changes such as more muscle or definition in the places I wanted, I started to feel better about my appearance quickly. By feeling happier on my appearance, I started wearing clothing I was too afraid to in the past which boosted my self-confidence, interrupted my constant self-criticism and comparisons to others, along with making me fixate on positive aspects of my appearance rather than focusing on my flaws. On top of that, exercise comes with many other healthy benefits too.
Although I have never had an eating disorder, for those struggling with it, reaching out for help and therapy are great ways to overcome it. Severe cases may even result in hospitalization as well. Lastly, have patience and try to have a strong support group to help you overcome your eating disorder. It is possible!
Please remember to be kind to yourself. Developing a positive body image does take time and can be difficult, but you can achieve it! I believe in you!
Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.
Body image & weight issues: What causes negative views. (2021, February 10). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image
Cherry, K. (2020, February 25). Why body positivity is important. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-body-positivity-4773402
Male vs. female body image. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.bradley.edu/sites/bodyproject/male-body-image-m-vs-f/
Melinda. (n.d.). Eating disorder treatment and recovery. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/eating-disorder-treatment-and-recovery.htm
Staff, W. (2019, October 31). 8 ways to Prevent eating Disorders (plus 5 recommendations for parents). Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://casapalmera.com/blog/8-ways-to-prevent-eating-disorders/