Being insecure about and even unhappy with your physical appearance is something that many people have to deal with. And even though this isn’t a mental condition on its own, it can have a huge impact on the way you view yourself and your mental health in general. But why does this happen? And how exactly does your unsatisfactory body image affect your mental well-being? Take a look at some answers to these and similar questions.
The Connection Between Self-Esteem and Body Image
When talking about body image, it’s important to start with self-esteem and what it encompasses. Self-esteem is your overall perception of your own self-worth. It’s how high you think of yourself, high much you value and like yourself. Among other things, this involves your view on several different aspects of yourself, including your personality, character and your appearance. On the other hand, body image only relates to your body and how you see it, whether in photos and the mirror, or inside your mind. Body image is comprised of all the feelings and thoughts you have about your own body, which includes how you feel when you’re moving, how you observe your body shape and what your opinion on your appearance is. Your body image often reflects on your self-esteem and how much you actually love yourself. The essential piece of information here is that both self-esteem and body image don’t come from outside sources, but are built inside our head, and as such can affect our mood and our overall mental health.
Causes of Body Image Concerns
Traditionally, girls and women are more worried about their appearance than boys and men. This is probably due to media and their often-unrealistic presentation of what the female body should look like in order to be attractive. However, this doesn’t mean that men don’t care about their body image or that they can’t have the same concerns about it as women. Other than the idealized images of beauty in media, some other reasons for people to develop a poor body image include comments made by family and friends and the relationship we have with them, as well as the pressure of what we think others expect that we should look like.
Furthermore, people with some serious or long-term health conditions may grow a dislike for their appearance. Some people have scars from surgeries they’ve done in the past. This can pull them away from the people they love of the things they enjoy. For instance, Australians are famous for the amount of time they spend outdoors and particularly on the beach, but if somebody has scars, they might become too aware of the marks on their body and will do anything not to be seen in a swimming suit. Fortunately, they can now have cosmetic surgery in Sydney to minimize their scars. Ending up with a walking stick, losing a limb in an accident, or even something like your hairline receding or becoming pregnant can lead to inadequate body image, and consequently to certain mental disorders.
Positive and Negative Body Image
As mentioned above, dissatisfaction with your body image isn’t a mental illness, but it can definitely become a risk factor for one. Negative body image can make you feel inadequate physically and mentally, but it can also lead to such serious mental issues as eating disorders, personality disorders and mood disorders. Some people try to improve their body image in unhealthy ways, so they even turn to drugs and end up with substance abuse. If you know of someone that is suffering with substance abuse, consider signing that person up for the MAT program to help them get back on track. Also, a poor body image can make you love yourself far less and even stop with basic selfcare.
So, how do you make your body image more positive? Start with caring more about yourself and your health. This means treating your body with more appreciation and respect. Make sure you maintain a balanced and nutritious diet and that you’re physically active, but not because you want to shape your body so that others would like it, but because you want it to be strong and healthy for a long time. When you notice that you’re basing your self-worth on your body image, consider some of your other good qualities instead and let them define you. Spend your time with people who care about you, who have a positive attitude towards life and who value you for how unique you are. Although reassurance from those whose opinion matters to you is usually a welcome thing, you shouldn’t build your body image around others’ beliefs or viewpoints. Love yourself for who you are and try accepting your body for what it is, and not what the media or anybody else want you to become.
Struggling with your body image isn’t something that’s only happening to you. It’s a common phenomenon, and one that could have a bad influence on your mental and even physical health. This is why it’s important to try and improve your body image. If you can’t do it on your own, talk to somebody you trust, or seek help from a therapist. Everybody deserves to feel good about themselves, and so do you.