September 11, 2020

Jem Fundano

Body Image: What Is It?

When you stare at your body in front of the mirror, what do you tell yourself? When you look at your body, you may feel happy, discontented, or ashamed. Your body image or how you see your body can affect your personal, social, school, or work life.

What is Body Image?

Your body image is how you see yourself. It may or may not be accurate with how you look, but it can affect your attitude, personality, and confidence.

What Influences Your Body Image?

Four areas influence your body image: perceptual, affective, cognitive, and behavioral body image. Here are the definitions:

  • Perceptual body image - is how you see yourself, and it can be different than how others see you. For example, when you see that you have a big stomach, you say that you're overweight even though you're in the normal body mass index.
  • Affective body image - how you feel about yourself influences your body image. For example, when you see your stomach, you feel dissatisfied or ashamed.
  • Cognitive body image - a term which indicates that as you feel dissatisfied about a certain body part, you think that it's a flaw. For example, you feel dissatisfied about your stretch marks on your leg, so it's a 'flawed' body part.
  • Behavioral body image - as you're preoccupied with the flawed body part, it urges you to alter or hide it. You engage in actions that can help you feel better about yourself: you isolate yourself, hide your flawed body part, go to the gym, or undergo surgery.

What is the Ideal Body Image?

Feeling good in your own skin should be your goal or your ideal body image. An ideal body image doesn't focus on perfection. It focuses on the positivity you feel towards your body.

There is no perfect body size, height, shape, color, or complexion. The ideal body image is defined as feeling comfortable in your own skin, your size, scars, stretch marks, or weight.

What negative factors can affect my body image?

Events around you can be a factor that causes you to have an unhealthy or negative body image.

  • Being repetitively teased or bullied about how you look
  • When a part of your body is criticized as ugly, fat, thin, or other negative remarks
  • Looking at your social media and seeing images or messages that make you feel bad about your body
  • Connecting a scar or wound to a memory that makes you feel bad about yourself
  • Being peer pressured to change something about your body

How can I know if I have an unhealthy body image?

A person with a negative or unhealthy body image is observed to do the following:

  • Excessively focuses and complains about a flawed body part
  • Worries about what other people will say if they see the flawed part
  • Avoids social engagements
  • Hides the flaw with makeup or clothes
  • Engages in excessive surgeries to fix the 'flawed' body part
  • Continuously asks for assurance from others

Related: Understanding Depression

If you struggle with your body image, your preoccupation with your body may be unresolved. Your negative body image then causes you to have a severely distorted view of yourself which affects your functioning. This severe distortion is one of the body image issues that can lead to different mental health problems such as body dysmorphic disorder, depression, or eating disorders.

Related: 8 Types of Eating Disorders

What are the essential things to build a healthy or ideal body image?

An ideal body image is a healthy one. Here are some tips to build your body image up:

  • Follow body-positive social media platforms
  • Stop excessively focusing on the body parts you see as flawed
  • Engage in physical exercise
  • If you feel overweight, engage in weight loss programs
  • If you feel underweight, consult a doctor or nutritionist that can help you gain weight in a healthy way
  • Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones.

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