Body image is a combination of the thoughts and feelings you have about your body. It can refer to positive and negative experiences and is influenced by internal (personality) and external (social and environmental) factors.
The 4 Aspects of Body Image
- Perceptual Body Image: The way you view your body. However, this is not always an accurate representation of how you look.
- Affective Body Image: The way you feel about your body. This can include many different feelings, positive or negative, however this is normally summarised as the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you feel about your shape, weight and individual body parts.
- Cognitive Body Image: The way you think about your body. This can lead to being preoccupied with your body.
- Behavioural Body Image: The behaviours you engage in as a result of your body image. When you are dissatisfied with your body image, you may isolate themselves or employ unhealthy behaviours.
What is Positive Body Image?
When a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body, this is known as having a positive body image. This is not the same as being satisfied with your body, as it is possible to be dissatisfied and yet still respect and accept your body. Positive body image is associated with higher self-esteem, self-acceptance and having a healthy outlook and behaviour, which all contributes to making a person less susceptible to develop an eating disorder.
What is Negative Body Image?
Having a negative body image is when you have persistent negative thoughts and feelings about your body. Body dissatisfaction is an internal process, however, is influenced by external factors. Body dissatisfaction can lead people to engage in unhealthy weight-control behaviours, particularly disordered eating, and this places them at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder.
It is so important for us to build a positive body image of ourselves, and although it can be hard to do, it is definitely possible. If you currently have an unhealthy relationship with your body, take some time to think about why you might be feeling this way. And if you feel as though you want to speak with someone else about this, find someone that you feel comfortable with. A friend, family member or even a health professional. But a great way to start is to follow these three tips, on how to start building a positive body image for yourself.
Focus on what your body can do rather than what it looks like
With people focussing so much on the appearance of our bodies, sometimes we can forget that our bodies are so much more than looks! We are capable of so much… movement, our skills and talents and our amazing personalities! Focussing on who you are as a person and what your body can do will help you to feel more positively about it! Writing down positive affirmations about your body and placing them where you can see them will serve as little reminders about how amazing your body can be!
- I am able to go for a walk or hug my family
- My favourite thing about myself is…
- I am really great at this skill…
Being comfortable with your body and practising self-compassion will start to form a positive body image. Start by looking in the mirror and appreciating your body, even try it when you’re naked!! If negative thoughts come up, try and let them pass over. Eventually with time, you will be able to start replacing these negative thoughts with neutral or positive ones. For example, saying to yourself “my hair is brown” (neutral) or “my legs are strong” (positive). Even if you don’t feel as though you mean it 100% yet, still say it to yourself. It may feel silly at first, but it is still empowering, and over time it will become easier and easier.
Stop comparing your body to anyone else’s!
Media, particularly social media, can have a huge influence on our body image as we tend to compare your bodies to those that are shown so often on social media. Unfollow or unfriend people on social media who’s posts or messages trigger you, or bring up unhelpful feelings regarding your own body image. This could range from modelling accounts, all the way to ‘the perfect meal prep’ page which makes you feel less-than. Instead, make sure that you are following accounts that show all types of body shapes and sizes that embody body positivity.
If you have any body image concerns or need help navigating this space, please get in touch to see how we can help you with this.