What is Body Image?

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”. 

It includes:

  • 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.