In Self-Care

The way we look on the outside has become very important in society and the media and trends seem increasingly to change faster than we can keep up with. Nowadays, there is more and more pressure on men to be “ripped” yet lean. For women, it’s all about big bums one minute and then the “heroin chic” look the next.

It’s impossible to keep up unless you’re a celebrity with access to plastic surgeons. It’s no wonder so many girls and women struggle with negative feelings when it comes to body image. We never seem to fit into the latest societal mold put out there for popular consumption when beauty is discussed.

It should be remembered that it is standard practice for images to be tweaked and, at times, completely altered in order to create an ideal of physical beauty. How are we meant to keep up with these photoshopped images in real life? The standards they create are not only ridiculous, but often impossible to achieve naturally for the average person. How can we reshape our minds so we accept ourselves as we are? This seems impossible in the face of what is out there feeding feelings of body dissatisfaction and body dysmorphic disorder.

Body positivity movements have been spreading and only getting better each year that goes by. However, there is still a long way to go. Social media platforms, such as TikTok, which has a significant amount of viewers can assist in alerting folks to the negative effects of social media. Understanding that the images of beauty we see on a regular basis are often the result of tampering and idealization of unrealistic standards will help us gain proper perspective. With newfound perspective, we can nurture a positive attitude towards our own bodies and gain self-confidence and self-worth.

When we don’t feel confident in ourselves, it can effect how we interact with the world. If you’re focusing so much on how other’s view you physically, you likely won’t be enjoying any of your time around other people. After all, it is exhausting obsessing over such things. Let’s focus on ways to enjoy who we are as we are. When we can do this, we can start living more carefree yet fulfilling lives. Keep reading for some tips and tricks to improve your body image!

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What Affects Your Body Image?

Body image is how you feel about your physical appearance. There are a number of factors that contribute to one’s body image.

Weight

The way a person feels about their weight can be the biggest factor affecting body image. With the athletic look driving much of the current ideals when it comes to beauty, there is significant pressure on women to sport highly aerobicized physiques with little to no body fat, while men often feel judged by the size of their muscles. All of this can drive people to go to extreme lengths to meet these expectations which can result in serious health repercussions.

If someone who is perfectly healthy wrongly believes they need to be thinner, this can create negative relationships for that person with food and, in turn, make him or her vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. Conversely, an individual who is preoccupied with putting on muscle mass, may feel pressured to take performance enhancing drugs in order to keep up with the celebrity standards.

Age

Puberty can have a large impact on your body image due to the way your body starts to change. This usually happens while you are in school, with peers going through similar experiences. As teens’ bodies start to change, they may experience bullying as, for example, some young adults’ bodies develop faster or slower than others. It is common for us to compare ourselves to our peers. Unfortunately, doing so can be very damaging to self-image.

Getting older can lead to criticism as well. As we age, our bodies develop grey hair as well as wrinkles. Some may feel pressure to dye their hair or undergo plastic surgery to reduce signs of aging. Remember, bullying can happen at any age and this type of pressure to stay young and beautiful has a very real face as we get older.

Motherhood

When women have babies, their bodies change significantly to accommodate the little human growing inside of them. Women of all body types put on weight, may develop stretch marks and may see their breasts start to drop. In order to deliver, a woman’s hips widen for childbirth and sometimes they don’t go back to their previous shape.

Even the mommy influencers on social media who seem to look like they never had a baby, have experienced bodily changes, but they may conceal them well. It’s normal and natural for our bodies to change from our pubescent years into adulthood, and it’s important to embrace that and prepare for it.

Social Media & Comparing Yourself

Celebrities are expected to meet particularly high standards of physical appearance in order to please the masses who follow them. They have agents who prescribe much of how they conduct themselves, including what they eat and how they present themselves to the general public. Surely we have all seen some of the scandals surrounding celebrities and their edited photos.

The hate and fat shaming celebrities receive for looking perfectly healthy, but not meeting certain societal standards of beauty is sickening. Although some of us place these public figures on a pedestal, they are not immune from the harmful effects of body shaming. Additionally, some celebrities own retail or cosmetic businesses that rely heavily on their ability to uphold that unrealistic standard of beauty.

Remember that social media is a business. Everything is aimed at getting you to spend money one way or another. Start to remember this as you are scrolling and hopefully it helps remind you of the truths behind the photos you may be comparing yourself to.

Societal Pressures from Family or Friends

Many people experience some shaming from family or friends. When you have a parent, for example, who always comments on your weight and what you are eating, it can be detrimental to your body image. Sometimes these comments come out of love, but sometimes they come out of jealously or bullying. Either way, it is not a healthy way to treat a loved one. It is not fair for another person to hold you to their beauty expectations.

Being “different” within a group of friends can make you feel pressured to change. Being the different friend can involve being physically different. Perhaps you are the plus sized gal in a group of tiny-shaped friends, or the non-muscled friend in a group of body builders. It’s easy to feel like the odd one out and to long to fit in with the others, but this doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you or how you look.

Sad Woman Measuring Waist After Weight Gain Standing At Home Weight Gain. Unhappy Girl Touching Drooping Belly Standing In Front Of Mirror At Home. Empty Space, Selective Focus

What are signs of a poor body image?

Some signs of having a poor body image can include:

  • Body or appearance dissatisfaction
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others
  • Feeling like a failure for not looking like people you see on social media
  • Thinking too much about how you are perceived by others
  • Feeling ashamed about the way you look
  • Obsessing over diets or workout fads

If you feel like your body image is taking over your life, it’s time to see somebody about it. Left untreated, you could develop serious body dysmorphia or an eating disorder that could be extremely detrimental to your mental and physical health. Having low self-esteem can be all consuming and can cause you to miss out on so many of the rewards that life can bring if you just focus on what truly matters. We encourage you to reach out today to speak to one of our highly trained and specialized therapists who will support you through and help you overcome this hurdle that so many of us face.

Group of five beautiful diverse young women wearing white shirt and denim jeans posing together isolated over grey background Group of five beautiful diverse young women wearing white shirt and denim jeans posing together isolated over grey background. Diversity, body positivity, beauty. Back view. Horizontal shot

How can we overcome negative body image?

There are things we can do in our day-to-day lives to overcome a negative body image. Keep an open mind, and let’s start to improve our mental health.

Recognize your negative thoughts

When you feel those negative thoughts coming on, realize that this is your negative body image talking, not you. Maybe you know these thoughts will happen when you step in front of a mirror, or when looking at a picture of yourself. Learn to recognize these patterns so we can work on reframing how your mind thinks.

Reframe your mind

If you start to think, “I’ll never be attractive unless I gain 30lbs of muscle”, immediately tell yourself “I’m attractive no matter what my body fat index is”. If you start to think, “I need to lose weight so I can be loved”, reframe your mind by telling yourself, “I’m lovable for who I am on the inside, and I’m beautiful”. Remember that you’re taking care of yourself and everybody is unique. Remembering the effects of social media every time you’re taking it in will eventually help you realize that the images depicted actually promote unrealistic beauty standards that can never be met or maintained.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

If you are feeling pressured to look a certain way by the people around you, it’s time for a change. Hold on tightly to those who make you feel supported and valued for who you are, not someone they want you to change into. We have enough pressures in our lives and our friends shouldn’t be one of them.

Wear clothes that make you feel good.

It’s fair to say that if you’ve spent a week in your pyjamas, you’re not exactly going to be “feeling” like your best self. Treat yourself nicely by investing in your appearance in simple ways. For instance, brushing your hair, wearing a perfume you love, wearing clean and comfortable clothes, will go a long way in making you start to love yourself again.

Remember that your body exists for so many other reasons beyond how it looks on the outside.

Your body is responsible for so many blessings beyond appearance. It allows you to walk, swim, talk, dance, and so much more. Think about all the healthy parts of your body, such as two working legs and arms that allow you to do everything you need to. If you have health conditions, think about the things you can still do! It’s important to stay positive and recognize all the things our bodies allow us to do.

Gratitude and affirmations journal.

Sometimes it can be hard to feel grateful when you wish you could change something. Forcing yourself to write in a gratitude journal can help to rewire how you think and get your brain to think about all the positive things. Writing in your gratitude journal every morning and reciting affirmations out loud will help you to believe them and focus on the positive. Here are some examples of affirmations you could write down or tell yourself:

  • My body deserves good things
  • All bodies are different
  • I’m grateful for my body
  • My body can move
  • I love my body
  • I love the way I look
  • I’m grateful for my health
  • My body takes care of me
  • I will stop worrying about what others think
  • I will enjoy my life to its fullest
  • The thin ideal isn’t something I’ll let affect my own body image

Do things that are healthy for your body.

Knowing that you’re doing right by your body without constantly longing for improvements is actually doing right by yourself at the end of the day. What other traits do you love about yourself?

Take a break from social media.

Distancing yourself from social media or at least acknowledging that most images have been modified to promote an unrealistic ideal will help you see yourself through more appreciative eyes. Anybody is able to access FaceTune and other editing apps to change their entire face and body in minutes. These beauty standards are not based in reality. Do not engage with these apps, they are horrible for your mental health and will only make you dislike the way you look naturally.

young asian teen exercising in a park young cheerish asian woman excecise in a park at morning

How can I be happy with my body when I’m overweight?

Being overweight can cause you to feel really bad about yourself especially if others have commented on your weight/weight gain. Negative body image in this context is compounded, of course, by public criticism of women with larger figures.

Even an upcoming appointment to your doctor’s office can inspire anxiety as a physical examination entails an evaluation of your weight and whether or not you need to lose some of those pounds. While it is important to recognize that your doctor has your best interests in mind, hearing that we need to lose weight usually has the effect of making us feel crummy and depressed.

Losing weight is one of the most physically and mentally taxing things to do. It requires you to change who you are in a lot of ways to develop a healthy lifestyle. Health conditions, such as depression and binge-eating disorders for example, can make the process take even longer since you’ll need to address those underlying issues first.

It’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and while you may feel pressured to adopt the body ideal presented online, you need to keep in mind that every body is unique and not necessarily “built” to conform to that mold and, in fact, your natural beauty is far more desirable than what is represented in social media. This will all take time–developing this mindset and reframing your thoughts so they conduce to a positive body image based in reality is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself time to get there and you will, when you are ready.

Take the pressure off yourself and remember that you are beautiful, no matter what size you are. The decision to make a change is completely up to you and likely won’t happen until you learn to love yourself and how you look regardless of what others say.

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