Body image consists of several factors. It isn’t only explained by what we think of our body when we look in the mirror. It also includes how we feel about our bodies and what your beliefs about it are. What’s more, the body image we have about ourselves affects other aspects of our personality. Our self-esteem and our mental health are directly connected and influenced by the way we see our bodies. In other words, all three aspects of our personality are interdependent and equally important and should not be neglected.
How our body image is formed in modern times
The fact is that many people regardless of their age, gender, race or culture have issues with how they look. The negative perceptions one may have about their own body isn’t reserved for a specific type of people – it can get to us all.
Modern times have brought us the unbelievable development of technology but with it the burden of comparing ourselves with others constantly and in every possible way. Social media platforms may be the biggest culprits when it comes to shaping public opinion on how we should look like in order to be seen as attractive or beautiful. Now more than ever, people have been suffering due to a negative perception of their own bodies that have developed through comparing themselves to what they see on Instagram, Facebook or magazines. And the big issue here is that a negative perception of your own body will expand to other aspects of your personality, damaging your overall happiness and well-being.
How exactly does your body image affect your self-esteem?
First of all, you need to understand that your body image is both mental and emotional. It is a mental picture of your body that you have but also the feelings you get when you look at your body in the mirror. To have a positive body image, one can’t just say that they tolerate the way they look or that they don’t hate it. Having a positive, healthy body image means truly accepting the way you look and not trying to change anything to fulfill certain standards from the outside world. It means identifying, accepting and appreciating all the qualities of your physical look, whether or not they comply with somebody else’s perception of how you should or should not look. It also means saying “no” to external pressures from the media, your community or online sources.
Your self-esteem is partially affected by how you see your body. As self-esteem is the way you value yourself as a whole person, it automatically means it the way you feel about your body will have an impact on your self-esteem. However, self-esteem is more than just your attitude toward your body, of course. It is the way you take care of yourself emotionally and physically, as well as spiritually.
So, if your self-esteem is high, that means you appreciate yourself and you expect from others to value and appreciate you, too. You are proud of your strengths but you don’t feel lesser about yourself if you make a mistake. It also means you will retain your self-esteem even if you find yourself in a difficult position. As it has been said on the Panthea site, self-esteem and confidence inspire you to reach your full potential. That’s why it’s necessary to nurture your self-esteem.
Therefore, if you don’t like your body or some part of it, you can’t feel good about yourself as a person. It works the same the other way round – if you don’t appreciate yourself as a person, it is unlikely you will notice your physical strengths and take care of your body the way you should.
The connection with your mental health
Consequently, if you have a healthy body image and high self-esteem, your mental health will also be great. That means you will be confident that you will be able to handle difficult situations and find solutions to problems that arise. You will also know that even negative situations and feelings won’t change your positive attitude of you as a person in any way. In other words, you will accept the fact that nothing is perfect, but that it is also perfectly ok.
On the other hand, if you think that something is wrong with your body or that you should look more like somebody else, it will affect your self-esteem. You will start thinking that you’re not good enough or that you’re worse than some other people. Consequently, these two aspects will have a negative influence on your mental health. You will feel like a failure, incompetent and unable to handle a difficult situation. Ultimately, depressed people often tend to turn to different opiates and alcohol. Negative thinking creates more negative thinking, forming a vicious circle that is hard to break.
How to build a positive body image
First of all, start taking good care of your body in every possible way. That means having a healthy diet and doing regular exercise as ways to strengthen your body. Learn to identify negative thoughts about other people’s bodies and your own – try to find a good feature instead. Wear comfortable clothes that make you look good in your own eyes. Surround yourself only with people that encourage your positive attitude towards yourself as a person and accept you the way you are. If there is something you don’t like about your body, come up with a list of advantages of that body part. Every time you get a negative thought about your body, ask yourself what’s wrong in your life right now or whether you’re feeling stressed or sad for some reason – that may be the trigger.
Accepting ourselves as a whole can be a long and difficult process for some people. If you find yourself struggling with it, be patient with yourself. Take one day at a time, slowly becoming aware of every wonderful characteristic that you possess. The better your body image gets, the more other aspects of your personality will improve.