What is body image and why do we care about it?
Body image is something that we hear more and more about these days. But what is it and how important is it?
Put simply, body image is how we think and feel about our own bodies based on the way they look.
If we have poor body image then we probably see our body shapes as being undesirable or unattractive. Whereas if we have good body image, we tend to feel more confident in our bodies and pay less attention to how they look as a result.
In an ideal world we would all feel great in our bodies and about ourselves but there are lots of things that can happen that can change the way we feel about the way we look.
Our body image can be influenced by lots of different things, but one of the main factors is the language used by people we know about their bodies and/or ours, from parents and caregivers, to bullies and people who are less constant in our lives. The media such as films, TV, magazines and social media have started to increasingly play a big role in how we feel about our bodies!
What people say really matters when it comes to body image, especially during our childhood because when we hear that the way our bodies look is important, we can start to become identified with the way our body looks, which means we see it as an important part of who we are and our value.
This can lead to us developing beliefs such as ‘I need to be skinny to be loved/good enough’, ‘I need to have a toned body to be attractive’, ‘if I am fat I am a failure’. And these beliefs are at the core of what can lead us to feel rubbish about how we look!
How does poor body image manifest?
When we suffer from poor body image, it can manifest in lots of different ways. Here are a few examples:
- Social anxiety
- Low confidence
- Disordered eating/exercise
- Body checking/avoidance
All of these types of behaviours can impact our everyday life either a little or a lot. Either way, it is tough and exhausting!
The good thing is that there is plenty you can do about it so that you really can live a life you love!
What can you do to improve your body image?
So, if you are struggling with poor/negative body image, what can you do to steer yourself to have a more positive body image instead?
First, you get to understand how you have come to think this way. You may find it useful to ask yourself the following questions to understand this more:
- What in your view is your ‘desirable’/‘acceptable’ body shape/weight/size?
- Where do you think this view came from? Was it a person you know, something you saw in the media?
- What do you think that having your ideal body shape/weight would mean? Would it make you more loveable, more confident, more popular, safer?
- Finally, do you 100% believe that by having your ideal body shape/weight that this is the only way to make you feel better and get these outcomes?
Starting to build a less structured sense of self
Now that you have asked yourself these questions, you are probably thinking ‘ok, so what now’?
So, when we struggle with poor body image/disordered eating we often have a very structured sense of self. This means we tend to see our identity itself as being very structured and rigid. Some examples of structured identities we could have are ‘I am a binge eater’, ‘I am a runner’, ‘I am thin’, ‘I am anxious’ etc.
Now, the issue with a structured sense of self is that we then start to worry who we are without these things because we are ‘identified’ with them. We end up believing that we are those things and if we aren’t these things then who are we? But guess what, our identities are in fact fluid!
If you were to think back 10 years ago, your life was probably quite different then and whilst there will be a lot of similarities, some big things will or may have changed in your sense of self. When we have structured identities, we are holding on to those consistent things and we end up getting ‘stuck’!
As we go through life we are meant to continue to learn, grow and evolve, that never stops! We are definitely not meant to be the same now as we will be in 10 years, that would just be crazy! Whilst the essence of me will be the same we won’t be exactly the same because we will have had different experiences within that time. Amazing to think, right?
To help with this we need to think about building identities outside of our current box, by being exposed to different things, or even putting ourselves outside of our comfort zones! You could diversify your social media feed or take up that new hobby that you have always wanted to try that isn’t food/body/exercise related. Expanding your world is really important for growing a more fluid sense of self. It’s also so exciting!
You can also look at what identities you already have that aren’t as structured. A good question to ask yourself is ‘what compliments do my friends and family give me (that aren’t shape/body related)’? For example, do they say that you are kind and caring, or that you have a good sense of humour.
These can all help us to realise that we are so much more than the body you are in!
I really encourage you to step back and appreciate the bigger picture! Ask yourself, is my body image really the be all and end all? Would you rather be happy or be in a more ideal body?
You will never find happiness through hating your body to fit an ideal it isn’t meant to. So why not try something different, it is so worth it.
Are you ready to heal your relationship with your body?
If you are ready to truly heal the relationship with your body, I have a gift that will be perfect for you!
EFT is a beautiful practise that can help us shift the programming we have developed in a way that feels easy and I have created an EFT sequence for bad body image days to help you do just that.
Register below to get your hands on this FREE sequence and join my regular mailing list (you can unsubscribe at any time).