Body Image and Self-Esteem
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Body image is how we view our body and how we feel about it when we see it e.g. the way we feel when we look in the mirror or see photographs of ourselves. Having a healthy body image includes accepting ourselves as we are; we recognise that we have good qualities and deserve respect regardless of our size, shape, weight, or overall appearance. For example, part of cultivating a healthy body image may be eating a balanced diet and exercising to be healthy, strong, and to feel good, rather than a means to strictly control our looks.
However, the ‘perfection’ portrayed in society, such as in the media, puts pressure on us to strive to be something other than what we are now, rather than being happy with ourselves in this moment.
Our body image influences many areas of life, including our self-esteem. When we have good self-esteem, it doesn’t mean that we like everything about ourselves, but regardless of this we recognise our value. We may focus more on qualities we admire in ourselves and our achievements rather than dwelling on mistakes.
Body image and self-esteem go hand in hand.
Why would we take care of our bodies if we don’t value or like who we are as people? In the same way, if we hate our body (or a specific part) it makes it much harder to like ourselves as a whole person.
While everyone experiences body image difficulties at times, for many, anxiety around body image can become so distressing that they experience symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).This impacts people in many ways, for example someone may worry so much about a perceived flaw (that other people may not even be able to see) that they may excessively check this in the mirror as a way to cope with their worries. There are many other ways people experience BDD.
Experiencing BDD does not automatically mean you have an eating disorder, although people dealing with an eating disorder can also experience BDD. Living with body image related anxiety can be debilitating and can affect the ability to cope at work or manage relationships.
Many people experiencing BDD are scared to seek support for their struggles out of fear of judgment, or people believing that they are vain for worrying so much about their appearance for example.
You are not alone and it is possible to feel better.
To anyone out there who is struggling with their body image, there is support out there for you. Some people choose to speak to their GP as a first step, as they have access to information around where to get support in their local area.
There is a lot of great information and resources online to learn more about Body Image, including Mind's website.