Body image: love the skin you’re in
What is it?
Body image is your own attitude towards your body - how you see yourself, how you think and feel about the way you look and how you think others perceive you. Your body image can be influenced by your own beliefs and attitudes as well as those of society, media and your peers.
An unhealthy body image is the belief that your body is bigger or smaller than it is in reality and that you aren’t perfect on the outside. You think that how you look on the outside is the whole picture of who you are. Remember you are more than just your body!
A healthy body image is being comfortable in your own skin and being happy with the way you look.
How do people get an unhealthy body image?
It is likely that you come across images of people on a daily basis, especially in the media. These images probably include a large number of super-slim or buff male and female models in magazines, super-skinny celebrities on TV, and even slender mannequins in stores. It is quite possible that being bombarded with all these images might make you feel bad about yourself and the way your body looks, especially if you don’t look like them. You may feel that it is important to become like these images. As a result, a lot of men and women try to control—sometimes in unhealthy ways—their weight to look a certain way.
In actuality, the ideal body shape has changed, and this ideal often has more to do with what your body shape says to other people than what it actually looks like. For example, during the potato famine in Ireland, it was very stylish to be plump; as it showed that you and your family were wealthy and could afford food. Today, it is stylish to be slim and well-toned because it shows that you have the money for a gym membership or a personal trainer. Same reason but entirely different shape!
Unhealthy body image can damage your self-esteem
An unhealthy body image can damage your self-esteem. Once you feel bad about the way you look, you may be inclined to think that you, as a person, are not as worthy. No matter what you look like, you are special. A person with a healthy body image will, most likely, feel more comfortable ‘in their skin.’ If you are comfortable, you will be a happier and more confident you and this may lead to others reacting more positively towards you.
If you are feeling inadequate about your body or yourself in general, it may be worth talking to someone about it. This may be a family member, friend, teacher or counselor. Check out the Get Help section for more information about how these people might be able to help. If you feel that you might be trying to control your weight in unhealthy ways, please check out our fact sheets on binge eating and bulimia nervosa.
How to get a more positive body image
Instead of passively receiving unrealistic images, why don’t you:
- Question messages in the media. Every time you see a magazine article telling you to become thinner or wear a particular type of clothing or buy a certain kind of product, ask yourself why the article is doing so. Is it to sell more copies or to encourage you to purchase a particular item? What will happen to you if you don’t listen to the article? What would you think if you hadn’t read the article at all? Are the images you see in the media showing strong, respectable, smart people or are they showing somebody solely focused on how pretty or handsome they look?
- Stand up for your rights. You don’t have to listen to what other people say about how you look. You have the right to be happy with who you are, as you are. Don’t let anybody take that away from you.
- Find your own style. Wear what you want to wear and don’t just follow what is in fashion. Fashion comes and goes but a personal style will outlast the trends!
- Describe yourself. You don’t need to use a single word about your physique to say good things about yourself. Think about the wonderful parts of your personality. People will come to see you as you see yourself and will describe you as you describe yourself. This goes for how you talk about your friends too!
Information in this fact sheet was also provided by:
Last reviewed: Feb 27, 2013
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