Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “If I could just (insert negative thought here – lose ten pounds, look better in this outfit, etc.), then I would be happy”? If you have, you’re not alone. It’s no secret that most American women and girls are unhappy with their bodies, and some resort to extreme measures in an attempt to change their bodies. Extreme body image difficulties can lead to more serious problems, such as body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders, and severe depression. Body image is developed through interactions with people and the social world. It’s our mental picture of ourselves; it’s what allows us to become ourselves and form opinions about who we are.
When most people think of body image, they think about aspects of physical appearance, attractiveness, and beauty. But body image is much more. It’s the all-encompassing mental picture that you have of your body, as well as your thoughts, feelings, judgments, sensations, and awareness. Body image influences your behavior, your self esteem, and your psyche. It’s not uncommon for people with a negative body image to have problems in other areas of their lives, including sexuality, careers, and relationships. If you are suffering with negative feelings about your appearance, it’s extremely important to change your body image to a healthy and positive view of yourself.
Ways to Overcome Negative Body Image
1. Accept Genetics: 25 to 70 percent of your body shape and size is determined by genetics. Try to modify the beliefs and attitudes that influence the way you feel. Appreciate the fact that you have your mother’s hips or your father’s nose. Change starts with you – and it starts with self-respect and a positive attitude.
2. Emotions are Skin Deep: What emotions underlie your negative body image? The statement “I feel fat” is never really about fat, even if you are overweight. Each time you look at yourself in the mirror and say “I’m fat,” you are really saying “There is something wrong with me or with what I’m feeling.” Remember that “fat” is never a feeling, it’s avoidance of feelings. Focusing on your body is only distracting you from what is really bothering you.
3. Don’t Obsess About the Media: The media sends powerful messages about the acceptability (or unacceptability) of our bodies. But the reality is that 96 percent of girls and women don’t match up to the images in the media today. The average model is 5’10” and weighs 110 pounds, whereas the average woman is 5’4” and weighs 142 pounds. Add to this the fact that many of the photos we see have been computer enhanced and airbrushed, and it’s no wonder that women and girls feel inadequate and negative about their bodies.
4. Fight the Diet Downfall: Ninety percent of all women have dieted at some point in their lives, and at any one point in time, 50 percent of women are dieting. Studies also show that 20-25 percent of dieters progress to a partial or full-blown eating disorder. Extreme dieting can create mood swings and feelings of hopelessness. If you need to lose weight for health reasons, adopt a healthy plan and enlist the support of friends or your healthcare provider.
5. Befriend Yourself: You would never tell your best friend that she is ugly, fat, or disgusting. So . . . why is it ok for you to tell yourself these things? It isn’t! Become your own best friend, and treat yourself as a best friend should. Be patient, forgiving, and kind to yourself.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel your best, as long as your pursuit doesn’t take your attention away from your spirit, your soul, and your whole genuine self. Beauty is not just skin-deep. It is a reflection of your whole being. Love, respect, and enjoy the person inside. Once you do, the outside will fall right into place. W