Since the beginning of time, people have given importance to the appearance of the human body. Society, social media, and popular culture often dictate what is considered beautiful and what is not. These ever-changing attitudes have a significant effect on how a person sees their own body. Constant exposure to images of impossibly perfect bodies can cause people to feel uncomfortable about their own body, which can affect many aspects of our lives.
What can we do to combat these feelings of imperfection? Before we answer that question, let’s talk about where exactly body image issues come from and what we can do to be comfortable in our own skin.
What is body image?
Body image is what a person believes about their appearance including height, weight, shape, etc. Body image taken to the extreme end of dissatisfaction can result in conditions such as eating disorders, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and other conditions.
Struggling with negative body image can be characterized as feeling awkward or uncomfortable in your body, lacking confidence, seeing parts of your body in a distorted way, or comparing yourself to others coupled with the feelings of inadequacy. These can lead people to undertaking drastic weight loss measures such as fad dieting, unnecessary surgery, etc.
Where does negative body image stem from?
Many factors can affect the way we view our bodies. These include family, friends, culture, age, ability, and race. Illness or accidents that alter the look of our bodies can often be the starting point of dissatisfaction with our bodies. Although it is often theorized that women tend to struggle more with negative body image, studies have shown that both men and women are about equal when it comes to rates of body image issues.
How can we combat negative body image?
One of the best ways to boost confidence is exercise! However, according to a 2015 study by Ohio State University1, the intention behind your exercise may have more to do with it than you think. The study concluded that “people who exercise for functional reasons, such as for fitness, tend to have a more positive body image. Those who exercise to improve their appearance feel less positive about their bodies.”
Other ways to improve our body image include self-reassurance, wearing well-fitting, comfortable clothes, avoiding comparing ourselves to others, and remembering that beauty does not stem purely from appearances.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving yourself and see what happens.” – Louise Hay
1 Homan & Tylka, “Body Image” https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/1/10560/files/2015/02/Tylka_Homan_2015-y1i8o1.pdf