Body image relates to the thoughts, perceptions and attitudes that you have about your body and your overall appearance. In other words, it is not only how we see our body, but also how we feel about it when we look at ourselves in the mirror. This image may focus on our weight, shape, height or other external characteristics. A person’s perception of their physical self is accompanied by thoughts and feelings that we experience as a result of how we see and perceive our bodies. As you can imagine this image and attitude we have can be closer to the positive end of a continuum or closer to the negative and is influenced by individual and environmental factors.
A positive body image is often mistakenly identified as the belief that a person perceives his/her body as beautiful, ideal, attractive and accepted by the social environment. However, positive body image refers more to a realistic perception of our body and the acceptance and appreciation of as it actually is. When a person has a positive body image then he/she has a more realistic and clear perception of his/her body. This person manages to maintain a positive attitude and feel comfortable with his/her physical features and experiences satisfaction with what he/she sees in the mirror, although a positive body image does not only stem from what we see in the mirror. Positive body image is when we accept our physical characteristics, value and respect our body as it is and we understand that our sense of self-worth does not depend on our appearance
Body image is a way of perception and attitude towards our body that is a lifelong project and is being developed over the course of our lives. The first concerns about the body appear at an early age and remains a field of concern throughout our lives. From an early age we understand the physical differences that exist among people and express concerns about the shape, size and weight. We also understand the negative evaluation that certain bodily characteristics may have within our social environment and we learn early on which bodies are considered beautiful and which features are valued as positive. This dominant image and social perception for the ideal body can negatively affect the individual and normal concerns about our body may develop into a persistence on changing our body and image as we try to acquire a more positive self-image and self-confidence.
“I constantly feel uncomfortable with my body. There no period of time that I wasn’t concerned about how my body looked and trying without success to go on a diet. I was always “bigger” than the other kids and I remember that the topic usual topic in our family was always about on how I would cut down on food. Even now that I have grown up and achieved so much, the conversation always turns to me. It’s become second nature to me to watch myself through this distorted filter so that when I people were attracted to me I couldn’t accept it.”M. student DUTH, 22 years old
It is important on our way to a more positive self-image that we explore what may be influencing the way we view our physical self and acquire a better understanding of our relationship with our body. So it makes sense to ask ourselves some questions and set some criteria that will remind us that we need to move to a more positive image.
Some helpful questions to explore our relationship with our body are:
- Which body do I consider ideal, what characteristics does it have?
- Where do these ideas of the ideal body come from?
- What words do I use to talk about my body and myself? Do I talk in different way when I talk about my body and when I talk about myself or I don’t separate my body from myself?
- What feelings are associated with the way I talk about my body?
- What characteristics do I attribute to my body and what is my assessment of them?
- Who other in my life would have the same views and who would not?
If the way we answer these questions allows us to perceive ourselves as more than the sum of our external features and our body, then it means that we can appreciate our existence in its entirety and recognize our uniqueness and our value regardless of our appearance.
“When I think about the way I see myself I believe that I’ve learned to think about my body negatively. I find it very difficult to see some of my features as beautiful and I don’t believe that anyone else can see them positively either. It is as if the way I see my body has become one of the filters that I evaluate myself” S. student of DUTH, 18 years old Body image seems to be positively linked to and contribute to our self-confidence when it is positive and the person feels comfortable with their body and features. It is therefore important to focus on and appreciate our abilities and strengths without associating them exclusively with our appearance. Furthermore, we try to emphasize on building a healthy and positive image of our body by maintaining an attitude of neutrality and skepticism towards unrealistic and impossible societal standards and expectations of a beautiful body.