Body image is how you see yourself, your physical image and the thoughts and feelings that result from that image. Part of body image is about what you believe your own appearance to be, this includes memories, assumptions and generalisations, how you feel about your body, including your height, shape and weight. It can include how your body moves and how you feel in your body, not just about your body’s appearance.
Our bodies are continuously changing as we grow and develop through adolescence, so it is important to realise that everybody is different. We come in many shapes and sizes, so try and not compare yourself to images perceived in advertising, the media or on social media. These thoughts about body image can be positive, negative or both and are influenced by individual and environmental factors.
Negative Body Image
Negative Body image is often a distorted perception of your body shape, meaning you see parts of your body unlike what they really are. By comparing yourself to others and unrealistic images, you tend feel that other people are more attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure. Feelings of shame, anxiety and self-consciousness are signs of negative body image; people can often feel uncomfortable and awkward in their own bodies.
Negative Body Talk
Negative Body Talk is when you say negative comments about yourself and/or other people. These comments could be about weight, height, dress style, hair, general appearance or anything to do with how you or someone else is looking. These comments and self-criticism can have a negative impact on how we feel about our own body image and about how we compare ourselves to others.
Negative Body Image and Eating Disorders
Negative body image can sometimes lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders are mental illnesses and can be a way of coping with feelings or situations that are making you unhappy, angry, depressed, anxious or worried. Eating disorders are complex and not all people with negative body image develop an eating disorder, as they can sometimes be completely unrelated.
Common eating disorders are:
- Binge Eating Disorder
- Emotional Overeating
- Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)
Positive Body Image
Positive body image occurs when a person can accept, appreciate and respect their body. It is a clear and true perception of your shape and you see various parts of your body as they really are. Feeling comfortable and confident in your body and not spending an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight and calories.
Maintaining Positive Body Image
Everybody has their days where they feel awkward and uncomfortable in their bodies, but the key to developing positive body image is:
- Recognise and respect your natural shape
- Keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle
- Try not to compare to unrealistic images from advertising and media.
- Try not to use negative body talk towards yourself and other people.
- Compliment your friends and talk positively about your body.
- Do activities that make you happy, the more you are enjoying yourself, the less likely you are to worry about your body image.