What Body Image Means - dummies

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

You may think that your body image is related to what your body actually looks like. But it’s not. It has more to do with your personal relationship with your body — how you think about it, how you feel about your body, and what your beliefs are about what is good-looking.

The way you see yourself

Your body image is directly related to how you see your body in your mind’s eye. It’s not what is physically true; it’s what takes place in your mind that’s important. Consider this: Almost all women overestimate their body size, and about half of underweight women consider themselves to be overweight.

Having a perfect body is a myth, but many people see an image in their mind and that’s what they strive for. They’re so engrossed in becoming this image that they spend excessive amounts of time trying to change their appearance.

Some people even put their lives on hold. They think, “I’ll do such-and-such when I finally look the way I want to.” They miss out on life for years because they’re waiting to have that ideal body.

If, instead, you see your body as the outer form that holds within it the marvelous personality that is you, your mind’s eye will hold a different picture. You can become a stronger, more confident version of yourself, and your body will reflect this.

The way you feel about your body

If you’re dissatisfied with your body, your poor body image will lead to a feeling of general unhappiness in your life. If you try over and over again to change your body, disappointment and frustration are sure to follow.

For a healthy body image, you don’t have to enjoy every little part of your body. It’s important though to like your body overall. In addition to how your body looks, you can appreciate how your body functions. If you can walk, run, move, and accomplish tasks, you can appreciate your functional body that serves you in many amazing ways.

The thoughts you have about your body

People typically engage in negative self-talk about their body. Have you ever thought something like the following?

  • I’m so fat!

  • I have to start losing weight now.

  • I need to work out harder.

  • My mouth looks terrible.

  • I need to fix (whatever you don’t like).

  • I’m so skinny, it seems like I’ll blow away.

  • I’m such a shorty, no one will ever go out with me.

  • My eyes are too close (or too far apart).

  • My nose is too long (or too short).

  • I can’t stand my stomach because it sticks out so much.

  • My hips are so big you can hardly see around them.

  • I am so ugly! Yuck!

These are the thoughts of a person with a very poor body image. They can lead directly to low self-esteem if you think that your body is the only thing that’s significant. As the frequency of these types of statements increases, the less you value yourself and the more likely you are to take action to solve this “problem.”

If you have a poor body image, every negative comment someone else makes becomes a blow to your sense of self-worth. And every compliment is interpreted as being insincere. You feel you deserve to be rejected by other people, and that your worth is totally tied to how your body looks.

Only if you become the “ideal” will others start to accept and respect you. So it makes sense to fixate on your perceived flaws, which inevitably leads to a poor body image and decreased self-esteem.

On the other hand, you can use positive self-talk to tell yourself how very awesome you are. Even if you don’t believe these words literally now, using statements such as these can turn your thinking process around. Try these out:

  • I’m a strong, confident person and my body shows it!

  • My body is beautiful (or handsome) in its own unique way.

  • I love the way I look.

  • I think my body works in a marvelous way.

  • I am intelligent, and I intelligently take care of my body.

  • My body can do so many things, and I’m grateful for everything it can do.

  • Attractiveness comes in all shapes and sizes, and my body is attractive.

  • I know that nobody’s physical body is perfect, and I still love my body, even with its imperfections.

  • I am worthy of love.

  • I enjoy feeling good about myself.

  • I choose to be healthy, both inside and out.

  • I deserve to be treated with love and respect. I treat myself like this, and I treat others like this.