According to The National Eating Disorder Association, body image refers to “how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind”.
- What you believe about your own appearance
- How you talk to yourselves and others about our bodies
- Your sense of how other people view your body and appearance
- How you feel in your body (for example, your comfort with movement), not just about your body
Negative Body Image is when:
- You have a distorted perception of your shape
- You are convinced that only other people are attractive
- You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body
- You feel uncomfortable and awkward in your body
Positive Body Image is when:
- You have a clear, accurate perception of your shape
- You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person.
- You feel proud and accepting of your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight, and calories.
- You feel comfortable and confident in your body.
If you find that you are struggling with a negative body image, you’re not alone. In one study of college students, 74.4% of the normal-weight women and 46% of normal-weight men stated that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.”
Body image, whether negative or positive, is shaped by a variety of factors including but not limited to:
- Comments from family, friends and others about people’s bodies, both positive and negative
- Societal ideals for physical appearance
- Exposure to images of idealized photo-shopped bodies
- The frequency with which we compare ourselves to others
- Personal experiences of abuse, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse
- Personal experiences of prejudice and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity
Some of these factors are controllable; some of them are not. Achieving a positive body image involves understanding what is controllable, accepting what is not, and taking steps to preserve this aspect of your mental health.