What’s Your Body Image?

WITH SPRING IN THE AIR, IT MIGHT BE A TOUGH TIME FOR PEOPLE WHO SUFFER FROM POOR BODY IMAGE.

No more hiding behind those baggy clothes from the winter. It’s time to shed those clothes and this can be a struggle.

Body image is more than being overweight. It’s the way you see yourself. If you don’t have a positive body image, then you won’t feel comfortable in your own body or about the way you look to yourself as well as to others. Let’s face it – we all have an image of how we see our body but when we have a severe negative body image, this may lead to eating disorders as well as other disorders and emotional distress.

Our body image is derived from many influences. For example, our family and friends contribute to giving us both positive and negative messages about our bodies. This starts at a very young age. If we grow up with a family that is critical about the way we look, this will contribute to developing a negative body image. On the other hand, if we have a family that enjoys physical activity and shares that with us, this helps us to develop a stronger body image.

The influences of television, magazines, movies, etc. pass on a message about how women and men feel they “should” look. In reality, models and celebrities don’t look like the majority of the population. We have to remember to look at the bodies in the real world and realize how diverse and unique bodies really are compared to what we see in the media.

Illness or even the aging process will influence how we perceive our bodies as we go through changes. Even our emotional state will affect the way we feel about ourselves. During stressful times at work or in a relationship, it is common to have distorted body image.

When people have positive body images, they feel good about their bodies most of the time. They may not look like the ideal person in a magazine or the movies, but they do feel proud of how they look. There is a certain inner acceptance that maybe they don’t have the “perfect” body but they are able to love the difference. Being attractive on the outside isn’t always so important – it’s really all about how you feel you look. And if you feel physically fit, as opposed to someone who struggles with getting around, you will have a better body image.

A negative body image will develop when someone feels that they don’t measure up to their family or social ideals. This happens as they measure themselves against standards they misconstrue from the media. They even may have a distorted view of themselves when looking into a mirror, imagining body parts as larger or smaller than what is really seen. People with negative body image will feel self-conscious and awkward or even may have shame about the way they look. If you realize that you feel this way most of the time, you probably suffer from negative body image and this can even have an effect on your health and well-being.

People who have a long-lasting negative body image are more likely to suffer both mentally and physically and are more likely to have anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, shame and trouble concentrating. It is possible they may cut themselves off from friends and family. Since they don’t want to have to show their body, they may stay away from the doctor or exercising, even refrain from sex. Serious mental disorders can also develop such as anorexia, bulimia, over-exercising or overeating.

The good news is there are a lot of ways to improve your body image. Since body image is not about how you look, but how you feel about the way you look, just changing the way you feel about your body is going to be beneficial. Just talking about your negative feelings with a friend, family member or a therapist will help you develop new ways to think about your body and help you realize your self-worth.

Keeping in touch with your positive qualities that don’t have anything to do with your physical appearance will help. Make a list of those qualities and read it often. Make sure you are surrounded by people who are going to make you feel good about yourself. You have inherited many traits from your family – love those traits as you love your family! And remember, treat your body with respect and kindness.

So, let’s all make a concentrated effort to come into the spring season with a spring in our footstep. Keep your head up high – we are all beautiful.

Dealing with any disorder or dealing with negative self image is a difficult thing to deal with alone. If you do feel you fit the category of negative body image, you may want to seek out  some help. There are many resources available to help with this. Contact Dr. Block for more information.

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