Body image is the way you feel about your own body – the way you view yourself, how your thoughts and feelings regarding the way you look affect you, and the way you believe your peers perceive you. The way you see your body can be influenced by your thoughts and outlooks along with those of your peers, society, and the media. People with unhealthy body images tend to think their body is larger or smaller than it really is, that they aren’t perfect on the outside, and thinking that how they physically appear defines them. Having a healthy body image is being comfortable with the way you look, being happy with your body, and experiencing inner peace.
Body image, food behavior, and self-esteem are all vital roles in the development of a young person. A slim body shape for girls is the ideal physical image in Western society, while the ideal for boys is a lean, muscular build. More and more young people may feel tremendous pressure to fill these stereotypical body roles and many of them experience low self-esteem when they can’t meet society’s “body expectations” and begin practicing harmful dieting, using muscle enhancers and engaging in body-building practices or other abnormal eating patterns to boost their self-esteem about their body. The recent increase in the dangerous lengths that some young people are engaging in to get the perfect body, i.e. fasting or extreme dieting, steroid use, and plastic surgery, is particularly concerning.
You can describe body image as someone’s perception of their body and the way they feel because of the way they perceive themselves. Many things can influence the way a young person feels about their body, such as comments from friends, family, peers, society, and even media influences.
According to research, the majority of females isn’t satisfied with their body shape and often tries losing weight, even if their current weight is healthy. An increase in males who are also unhappy with their physical appearance is also prominent; half want leaner bodies and the other half wants to be larger. This results in unhealthy exercising and dieting. Many males are using muscle-building supplements with strict eating routines and spending hours in the gym.
The feelings one has about themselves can be described as self-esteem. The definition of self-esteem is not so much about being happy at all times, but more about valuing ourselves as individuals and the way we choose to deal with life’s challenges. Our self-worth can be impacted by our own feelings, and is affected by how we accept and respect ourselves as people.
A person with positive self-esteem focuses on good aspects about themselves, accepts their flaws, and treats themselves, both physically and mentally, with respect.
Body image is closely related to a person’s self-esteem, but your weight, body shape or physical appearance doesn’t define your worth as a person. Genetics mainly determines your body shape, but your lifestyle is also a large factor in overall shape. Exercise and nutrition can never change your body’s genetics, so it’s important to accept your body as it is and rely on fitness and nutrition to ensure your body is healthy and strong. Sustaining a lifestyle that is healthy and balanced is very important. Body shapes aren’t categorized as body types any longer (mesomorph, endomorph, ectomorph) as there is no present-day relevance; there are many different sizes and shapes of healthy bodies.
Here are a few tips to help improve your self-esteem and body image:
- Respect and love your body
- Write out a list of all your good qualities and talents
- Be satisfied and happy with the unique traits and abilities you offer the world
- Become friends with who you look at in the mirror each day
- Realize and appreciate that human beings naturally come in many different shapes and sizes
- See the strength and beauty that is in every body
- Wear comfortable clothes you like and enjoy
- Go through everything in your closet and give away any clothes that don’t fit anymore.
- Thank your body for what it does for you – your arms for the ability to hug someone, and your legs for carrying you around.
- Take up physical activities you enjoy, like sports, rollerblading, or walking
- Stand up to negative comments about your shape, weight, or body
- Disregard the social stigma that women have to be skinny and men need to have big muscles
- Stand up straight and tall and be aware of your posture
- Come up with confident replies to negative comments others may say to you
- Choose a thing you have been postponing until you reach the “perfect body” and do it right now!
- Have patience. It takes time to heal your relationship with your body.
- Learn to love yourself and your body – it’s the only one you have, and it’s your home for your whole life.