Throughout our childhoods, we are exposed to a wide range of absurdities, and these experiences shape our views of what is and isn’t acceptable. We take up on what society has essentially established as right or wrong. We are subconsciously influenced by society’s standards and norms. Body image differs according to society. Many of us internalize messages about body image beginning in childhood, which can result in either a favorable or negative body image.
Concerns over one’s body image frequently begin at an early age and could last a lifetime. By age 6, girls begin to show concerns about their personal weight and shape–expressing anxiety about their weight or risk of becoming obese. Additionally, nearly half of adolescent females and nearly a third of adolescent males engage in hazardous weight-loss habits such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives. It’s crucial to remember that each person’s experience with body image issues is unique, thus the onset age might vary widely.
What does body image mean?
The term “body image” refers to the collection of ideas and emotions about one’s body. Body image experiences can range from favorable to negative, and an individual may feel positive, negative, or a combination of the two at various times. Internal and external elements both influence body image. Your perceptual body image is how you perceive your body. This is not necessarily an accurate depiction of your true appearance. Your affective body image is how you feel about your body. While feelings can range from delight to disgust, they are sometimes summarized as your level of contentment or discontent with your shape, weight, and individual body parts. A person’s mental representation of their body is known as their cognitive body image. This might result in an obsession with one’s body shape and weight. Behavioral body image refers to the actions that you take because of your body image. When a person is unhappy with their looks, they may isolate themselves or engage in unhealthy behaviors in order to alter their appearance.
Positive body image means having a clear, accurate view of your shape; perceiving the various aspects of your body for what they truly are. Accepting one’s natural body shape and size and realizing that appearances have little bearing on one’s character or value as a person are all components of body positivity (or body pleasure). In contrast, having a skewed view of one’s body shape is indicative of having a negative body image. Feelings of shame, anxiety and self-consciousness accompany negative body image (or body dissatisfaction). Negative body image can also arise as a result of weight stigma, muscularity, sexual functionality, scars, noticeable face or physical differences, handicap, or changes in the body as a result of medical treatments or disease.
Individuals who have a high level of dissatisfaction with their bodies believe their bodies are imperfect in contrast to others, and these individuals are more likely to experience depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia aren’t caused by a single thing, but research has shown that body dissatisfaction is the most common factor in the development of both.
When a person has chronic negative thoughts and feelings about their body, this is referred to as body dissatisfaction. Although dissatisfaction with one’s looks is an internal emotional and cognitive process, it is influenced by external influences such as pressure to conform to a particular appearance ideal. Dissatisfaction with one’s appearance can motivate individuals to engage in unhealthy weight-control behaviors, most notably disordered eating. As a result, they are at an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. It is worth noting, however, that the majority of people who have body image problems or dissatisfaction do not have eating disorders, and some people who do have eating disorders do not have body image concerns.
In Westernized countries, body image dissatisfaction has become a major concern for adolescent health. More than 60 percent of females and 30 percent of males in the United States suffer from body dissatisfaction, which is a particular focus for adolescent health practitioners. In the 1980s, researchers around the world began studying the impact of a negative body image on eating disorders. Since then, the amount of research on body image has expanded tremendously. Many of these studies reveal that the type and degree of body image problems vary according to characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity, peers, family, personal experiences, and socio-cultural influences. These studies provide a good starting point for further research. Women in Western cultures appear to be at the greatest danger, while those in non-Western cultures appear to be at the lowest risk, albeit this is more owing to a lack of relevant studies than a scientific conclusion.
A person is said to have a positive body image if they can accept, enjoy, and respect their physical appearance. You can feel unsatisfied with some elements of your body, but still, be able to accept it for what it is. This is not body contentment. In order to maintain a healthy body image, it is important to recognize and avoid the artificial and unattainable ideals of beauty and thinness depicted in the media. A healthy body image does not ensure good mental or physical health, but it can provide a protective barrier against poor self-esteem, disordered eating behaviors or yo-yo dieting, and, perhaps, other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphic disorder.
It’s becoming more and more common for people of various sexes, ages, genders, ethnicities, abilities, etc., to embrace their bodies as they are. Body variety must be embraced and all bodies recognized as valuable. In order to cultivate a healthy body image, it is important to understand and respect one’s natural shape, and then replace negative thoughts with positive ones that are affirming and accepting.
Greene, S. B. (2011). Body Image: Perceptions, Interpretations and Attitudes. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
“Body Image & Eating Disorders.” National Eating Disorders Association, 22 Feb. 2018, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/body-image-eating-disorders.
Body Image. (n.d.). Body Image. https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/.