Counseling & Psychological Services
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Body Image Concerns
In contemporary American Society, achieving the perfect body has become a major measure of self-worth for most adolescent and adult women. Alarming statistics reflect society’s present-day preoccupation with physical appearance and self-image.
Thinness has become a symbol of power, moral superiority, and even a measure of fitness/wellness itself. Unfortunately, few of us have peace of mind when it comes to our bodies and our appearance. No one is immune to the ever-changing cultural beauty standards and the pressures to be thin.
Many women believe their lives will be magically transformed when their goal weight or dress size has been reached. This keeps females of all ages caught up in the relentlessness pursuit of thinness- a quest that all too often results in body-shame, body-loathing, low self-esteem, and body-image disturbance.
Signs of Body Image Disturbance
Body image concerns occur along a continuum that ranges from mild-dissatisfaction to severe boy-hate. Body-image disturbance is generally seen in conjunction with self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, or sexual abuse.
These warning signs may indicate that a problem exists:
How to Help
Women can learn to make peace with their bodies – no matter what their size or shape. In fact, it is self-love and acceptance that promote the self-care and self-nurturing necessary for high esteem.
Recent studies indicate that self-esteem and body-esteem are very closely linked and have little relation to actually physical attractiveness. Thus, the true indicator of a good body-image is good self-esteem – as opposed to being able to fit into size 6 jeans.
The following suggestions can help promote better body-esteem for every body:
Ten Steps to Positive Body Image
1. Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day 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.
2. Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself -- things that aren't 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.
3. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of body. Remind yourself that true beauty goes beyond appearances. When you feel good about yourself and secure in who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance, and openness that makes you beautiful.
4. Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in the 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.
5. Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who recognize and support natural sizes and standards.
6. 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.
7. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it
8. Become a critical viewer of social standards and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans, or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages and advocate for healthier body portraits by writing letters to advertisers, or visiting and contributing to advocacy websites, such as those listed on our resource list.
9. Do something nice for yourself. Take a bubble bath, read a book, make time for a nap, relax in a peaceful place outside.
10. Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to help others. Reach out to your community to make a positive difference in your world and the lives of others.