What Is Body Image?
Body image is the way that one feels about their body. It is also an evaluation of one's bodily appearance, whether it be negative, positive, or neutral. Body image is subject to distortion and the way in which a person sees their own body may not actually reflect the reality. This is the case with people who have eating disorders, but it also happens in people who do not have an eating disorder. The way in which one perceives their bodily appearance can be highly dependent on a how a person feels on a given day and who that person happens to be around. Similarly, how a person feels about their body can vary within a short time period. How one wakes up experiencing their body may be very different from how one experiences it later on in the day. Although this can mean that someone who is viewing themselves in a positive light can shift to a more negative perception of their body, it also means the opposite can occur! Lets discuss some things a person can do to foster a positive body image!
Tips For Fostering A Positive Body Image
1. Use Neutral Descriptors When Speaking About Your Body. Having a positive body image does not just mean speaking positively about one's body. Having a positive body image means that you feel content in your body, even if your body doesn't look exactly how you wish it to. . We can all identify with an experience of looking at ourselves and commenting on various body parts using negative terms, sometime positive terms as well. This can be especially common during the summer when we are wearing less clothes or going swimming. Many people may try to use positive terms to describe their body parts, but unless you are truly feeling positive, this can feel inauthentic and will not really have an impact. Similarly if there is a positive that means that the negative will return if something changes. By using neutral descriptors you avoid the back and forth inflating and deflating that can occur when assessing our bodies. Thoughts like "I hate my fat arms" or "look at my Michelle Obama arms" can be replaced with "I have some visible muscles in this part of my arm" or "my thighs have changed." If there is a body part that you can only think negatively about, then just focus on another part of your body that you can describe more neutrally. This first tip will help significantly with the second tip.
2. Shift Focus to What Your Body Can Do. Regardless of what you look like, your body does many things for you every day. Whether you use your body to run a marathon or to simply brush your teeth, you cannot do that without your body. And there is a way that you can feel good about your body separately from what it looks like. Try to find as much appreciation in your body as you can, even in things as mundane as smiling and as crucial as breathing. Make sure to thank your body every day for everything it affords you.
3. Be Mindful of Your Environment. Remember that body image can vary from time period to time period, even within a day. If you start to notice a negative shift in the way you are perceiving yourself, pause and take stock of where you are and who you are around. Ask yourself, are you in an environment where negative body image is reinforced. For example, are you part of a sports team or dance troupe that encourages low body weight and has a negative view of weight gain or certain body types? Then remind yourself of that. Or are you following certain people on social media who propagate negative body image? If you notice that your environment is negatively influencing you then try to change it as best as you can. Leave the environment if you can. If you cannot leave the environment, try to add in some body positive elements, such as finding people in your environment who do not speak in this negative manner. You can also try to join or become a part of other groups that make you feel good about yourself.
4. Focus On Being Present with Others. Holding on to the knowledge that how you feel will likely change at some point, work on focusing on being present in your relationships. Sometimes something as simple as having a really good conversation with a friend about something else could be enough. You can also try doing something nice for someone else while recognizing that this requires your attention in the moment more than focusing on your appearance does.
5. Ask For Help: If you notice that you have had a negative body image for a long period of time or that nothing seems to help you feel better, then it is important to seek help. Reach out to a mental health professional who is experienced in working with body image struggles. You can also join a body image support group. You are not alone and there is help available!
If you find yourself struggling with a negative body image, or have a loved one who has a negative body image and are struggling to manage your feelings around this, feel free to reach out for a consultation. If you have general questions about therapy, you may find the FAQ page on www.GreenTPsychology.com useful.