For generations, the media has bombarded us images of people who are modelled to perfection. We become accustomed to seeing these flawless people and assume that everyone has a perfect body and there’s something wrong with us if we don’t look like them.
Of course in truth, these images are unrealistic because they typically only represent a certain body type, particularly when it comes to female bodies. In the real world, you come across a wide variety of body types and people who are considered attractive as well as those regarded as less attractive.
And of course, so much of the imagery in the media has been edited by professional photo and video editors so that conventionally beautiful people look even more flawless. On the surface, this might not seem all that important, but the effect these misleading media images have consequences.
How your body image affects you
Photoshopped images that lack realistic representation help create negative body images among women and girls.
People with negative body image are more likely to be anxious, depressed, and have suicidal thoughts than those who aren’t dissatisfied with their appearance. This mental strain also makes people with body image issues prone to self-harm and developing eating disorders.
If this has impacted your own life, there are ways to counteract the effects. By developing a positive body image, you’ll recognise that your sense of self-worth should be based on much more than the image you see in the mirror or those you see on screen or in magazines.
Your self-esteem needs to be based on a lot more than your relationship to the images you find in the media. Here are a few things you can try to get you started in the right direction:
Take care of your body
There are many things you can do to take good care of your body, like getting adequate rest, eating well, taking long hot baths, staying hydrated, washing your face, going for a walk – the list is practically endless. Remember, your body is your temple and the way you treat it affects your self-esteem.
How you take care of yourself impacts more than just your appearance. It also involves your emotions and overall health. When you take proper care of yourself, you feel good, and when you feel good you look great and are better equipped to face the challenges of daily life.
Appreciate your body now
Look at your body. It’s fantastic. It takes you from point A to point B. It’s self-healing. Your body is something to be proud of. Physical appearance has nothing to do with this.
When you focus on your body’s actual functions rather than the shallow expectations of society, your viewpoint changes. You look in the mirror and start to see a well-functioning body instead of one that apparently doesn’t measure up to the impossible, unrealistic standards set by advertisers and mass media.
Exercise because you love it
Yes, exercise is healthy, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Feeling like you have to reach some unattainable goal might lead you down an obsessive path. Instead, create your own reasons to exercise. Try to look at it as trying something new or being adventurous. It’s all about you and how you feel.
Practise positive affirmations
Developing a positive body image involves how you think and what you say. Affirmations are a conscious way of internalising statements that serve to lift your mood up. They can also help the way you think about your body.
Try this. First, monitor all the negative things you’ve come to believe about your body. Then create positive affirmations that are based on your best qualities and challenge the negative thoughts. Repeat these positive affirmations three times a day for up to five minutes.
Don’t criticise your body
Due to the prevalence of photoshopped images and the lack of realistic representation in the media, people have learned to criticise their bodies. If their frame doesn’t quite stand up to the images they see on TV, some people start to feel like they’re lacking something physically, that they’re somehow inferior because they don’t look like some photoshopped image they’ve seen in an underwear advertisement.
So they start putting their bodies down for not meeting those standards. Too much self-criticism fuels insecurity and an unhealthy body image. It makes you more angry, anxious and depressed because you feel like you aren’t good enough.
You certainly don’t need a special event in order to treat yourself to something nice. A face mask, manicure, new dress, whatever you’ve been wanting, give it a go. The more you practise this, the more your body image will improve.
People tend to forget about this aspect of well-being. Self-love boosts confidence, reduces stress, and can be a powerful way to boost your mood and develop greater self-confidence.
When you show your body love, you’re being compassionate and appreciative of your body. You’re doing what feels good to you. Through self-love, you’re physically acknowledging the appreciation you have for your body.
With time, you’ll learn that you’re deserving of all great things, that your body is fine as it is and is completely worthy of appreciation.
Wendy Whitehead worked as a teaching assistant at two special needs schools in London before embarking on a different career as a marketing consultant.