Body image is multi-faceted. It includes how you perceive your appearance when you look in the mirror. It also involves how you feel about your body. People with negative body image see themselves as a distorted image of who they really are. They feel awkward, uncomfortable, ashamed and self-conscious. They are more likely to develop an eating disorder, depression and low self-esteem. People with positive body image see themselves as they truly are. They appreciate their natural body and value its uniqueness. People with positive body image also feel confident and comfortable and have high self-esteem.
The National Eating Disorders Association has a list of the ten steps to positive body image:
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Everyday your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you – running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself – things that are not related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about you.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you – as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message.
- Do something nice for yourself – something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, or weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.
(reference: National Eating Disorders Association, KidsHealth.org)