Most of us have at least one thing we would like to change about our bodies. Maybe you think that your nose is a little bigger than normal or your muscles need some work. Whatever the case, mass media and fashion trends don’t make it any easier when it comes to being secure about looks. The bad news is that body image can be a serious trigger of depression, which should be taken seriously considering the unrealistic media portrayals of how people should look.
Today, television sets, social media, and magazines portray images of unrealistic perfection. Studies show, however, that exposure to such content can sometimes lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. Also, a negative perception of one’s body is one of the main factors determining the high rates of suicidal ideation among college students.
Who Do People Struggle with Body Image Issues?
In most cases, being dissatisfied with one’s body emanates from social pressure as well as some dysfunctional beliefs that we hold. At some point, most of us look in the mirror and question whether we look good enough. You may also try on clothes in a department store and feel uncomfortable with how you look. The feelings of wanting to change or adjust some parts of our bodies can be a common desire.
But the main question is: why aren’t people satisfied with their bodies and have s negative self-image?
It is important to indicate that the feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s body image go beyond physical attributes. Many people believe that their sense of self-worth or success is determined, to an extent, by their physical appearance. As a result, feeling that you fall below acceptable beauty standards can lead to diminished feelings of self-worth.
The factors behind a person’s dissatisfaction with their body can be internal or external as analyzed here.
Our cultures and the society we live in have a strong impact on our sense of self-image. Over the years, standards of beauty have kept changing. However, the notion of what is deemed desirable and acceptable has remained relatively limited. Currently, the standards of what is seen as ideal beauty seem unattainable for most people. Some of the characteristics imposed by society appear unachievable and fail to make sense. After all, human bodies are diverse.
One important factor that affects our perception of body image is peers. Those friends, colleagues, and romantic partners we engage with the matter in terms of shaping our mindsets. Comparing ourselves to others is human nature. So, if we stay around people of the same size and shape, we are bound to feel different about our bodies. Also, the way others talk when referring to your body and their own bodies will influence your interpretations and thoughts.
The mass media is another factor that shapes our sense of body image. Television programs and magazines promote ideas in terms of the ideal body weight and size. There are lots of messages on social media platforms that associate certain body types with:
- Happy life
- And moral virtue
From memes that define what is beautiful and worthy to people setting “trends” that can be impossible to attain, social media can be a double-edged sword.
The third external factor that may diminish your dissatisfaction with your body is your background. Communities have stereotypes of body types or sizes that are specific to the geographical and racial settings. Back women and Mexicans, for instance, have to contend with messages that ideal women should be curvier to be considered more beautiful.
There are many internal reasons why you may not be satisfied with your body. Other than external standards imposed on us by others, there are also aspects of body image that depend on our attitudes and personality.
Here are some internal factors that can result in negative perceptions of our own bodies:
- Comparing oneself unfairly to others based on unrealistic standards;
- Dichotomous or rigid thinking that places one characteristic against another;
- Misconceived assumptions relating to what is ideal;
Also, there are genetic factors that influence not only our body sizes and shapes but also how we feel about them. According to research, hormones also play a role, with women shown to feel more attractive during ovulation. Also, biological events like illness and pregnancy can affect people’s moods and self-perception.
How to Deal with a Negative Self-Image
The factors outlined above, together with past experience can diminish one’s perception of their body image. There are two main ways to approach the problem.
The first one entails adjusting your attitudes and beliefs, which could be making you unsatisfied with your body. Also, try to separate your sense of self-worth from your physical appearance.
The second thing to address if you are unsatisfied with your body is learning to accept and love yourself as you are. There are many things that your body allows you to accomplish. Recognize and appreciate them. Learn to treat yourself with love and respect, and make peace with the image of your body as you see it in the mirror.
The most ideal way to take care of your looks and body healthily starts with unconditional acceptance. Start taking care of your body, not because you how it looks, but because you love it.
Here are some steps to try out if you are not satisfied with your body image:
- Determine what is causing your unhappiness and create a plan to change it;
- Practice talking to yourself positively;
- Set fitness goals related to health instead of size;
- Stay away from triggers like social media, the scale, and celebrity images;
- Take note of the characteristics you love the most about your body;
- Instead of size, focus on health and strength;
- Work on your social contacts, surrounding yourself with positive people;
- Be less critical of yourself and avoid external critics
In addition to these tips, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Understand that negative self-image can have serious implications on your physical and mental health. Learn to love yourself by asking for help. You will be shocked at the number of people who actually want to lend a listening ear or helping hand.
It is okay not to be okay, as long as you seek help. You should also consider engaging a professional counselor since self-loathing could be a sign of deeper issues.
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach.Read more