How to accept your own body in today’s world
Appearances seem to be it these days. Everything seems to hinge on the way you look. All of us seem to judge others around us, both males and females, solely on the basis of their looks. In fact, very often, this world of ours seems polarised, with thin people on one side and the overweight and obese inhabiting the other half. One can blame it on consumerism, television, movies, magazines, the fashion world, advertisements, the internet and the social media.
But the fact remains, you are bombarded every second with these images of perfect sculpted bodies with chiselled features, donning designer wear. Directly or indirectly, these images compel you to draw comparisons between your lived in body and their designer one.
Can you really blame the youth, and very often adults as well, for finding their aspirational models in these carefully curated cosmetic images? However, constant exposure to such images and comparisons can have a negative impact on your sense of self and body image and lead to serious mental health issues.
Is physicality everything?
There is a direct correlation between how we look and how we feel about ourselves. Our self-esteem is intrinsically linked with our physical appearance. It has been seen that women with a positive body image are more likely to be mentally and physically healthier than their counterparts nursing a negative body image. Low self-esteem very often gives rise to eating disorders as well as depression. The way we perceive ourselves also has an impact on the quality of our life.
According to psychologists, there are broadly four types of body image. First is the perceptual body image, which is the way you view yourself. This is not always a correct image. For instance, you may be reed thin but perceive yourself to be overweight. Basically, you have a distorted image of yourself which is far removed from your actual body image. People tend to over exercise or go on strict diets because of this distorted sense of reality. This kind of behaviour is commonly associated with eating disorders.
The second type of body image is called the affective body image and has to do with the way you feel about your body. Your feelings and emotions will often be impacted by people’s comments and your energy levels. It is basically very subjective and is likely to change from day to day. You could be super confident one day and insecure the next.
Thirdly, is the cognitive body image. It is about how you think about your body as opposed to how you feel about it. So you may think negatively about your body and be obsessed with it. And you may also link your happiness with losing weight or being thin. But as we know, happiness has got nothing to do with being thin or fat. But that’s the way our mind starts thinking.
Lastly, we have the behavioural body image. As the name suggests, it is about how we behave based on the way we look. It is about our actual behaviour in real time, influenced and motivated by the other three types of body images. If unchecked, it could lead to extreme behaviour motivated by unrealistic goals.
How to love ourselves as we are
It’s ok to see glimpses of yourself or your close ones in these four types of body images. Ultimately, do remember, you are more than you look. Your identity is not just the sum total of your body parts. It has nothing to do with the numbers on your weighing scale. But that’s easier than done, you may say. So how do we develop a positive body image?
First, let’s understand what constitutes a positive body image. It’s basically when we are able to respect, appreciate and accept our bodies exactly the way they are. So we have a sense of self-esteem, as in we value ourselves. It also involves being able to accept our strengths and weaknesses.
Most importantly, it is not about being perfect or even attempting to achieve it since that’s impossible. Also there is no room for comparison with others. Lastly, one needs to shed one’s critical and judgemental attitude towards oneself and others.
Often a lot of your body image issues may not always be about your body. It could be about a desire to be loved, valued, seen and heard. It could just be you projecting other negative emotions and experiences onto your body.
At the end of the day, it is important to transcend and go beyond your body shape, weight or size and not let it weigh down your sense of self. Go beyond and embrace life.
How to feel more body positive
- Focus on your positive qualities, talents and skills.
- Practice saying positive affirmations to yourself every day.
- Avoid negative self-talk.
- Focus on what your body can do.
- Remember it’s about good health and not just weight loss.
- Avoid comparisons. Most of the glossy images on media owe their perfection to Photoshop.
- Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and good about yourself.