Your body image affects your mental health: keep reading to learn more
In today’s world, people are bombarded with ads — whether it’s images, videos, or text. Because these ads are usually designed to trigger negative feelings (such as shame or insecurity), they affect the way we see ourselves. You may think that you have enough confidence, and that you’re immune, but in reality you’re not.
When your subconscious mind sees images of perfect bodies over and over again, eventually it will get used to those standards, and accept them as normal. This is why today many people have unrealistic body standards.
In this article we’re going to have a look at seven potential signs you may have an unrealistic body image, five tips to change your mindset, and whether you should improve your body or simply accept it as it is. Let’s begin.
Signs of unrealistic body image
1. You compare your body to someone else’s
When you look at your body, do you simply see it as it is? Or do you start thinking about someone else’s body, and feel insecure? The first sign you may have an unrealistic body image is if you constantly compare yourself to others.
For example, there may be a part of your body you would like to improve because it’s not as beautiful as, or it doesn’t look as good as (…). Perhaps, when you look at yourself in the mirror, your mind automatically comes up with images of flawless, doll-like perfect bodies you saw on social media, and you can’t help feeling insecure.
2. You constantly look at yourself in the mirror
Do you look at yourself in the mirror way too often? It could definitely be a sign of poor body image. Those who have unrealistic body standards often feel the need to check how their body looks, so they are in front of the mirror all the time.
Or, you may avoid mirrors because you don’t like the way you look, and don’t want to feel ashamed. Whatever the case, notice whether your thoughts and feelings change when you look at yourself: if they do, in a negative way, it probably means your body image is not ideal.
3. You obsess over they way you look
We’ve just seen how mirrors can trigger feelings of insecurity or reassurance, however those who suffer from poor body image will do anything they can to constantly monitor, assess, change, and think of how they look.
This may include spending enormous amounts of time buying or choosing clothes, applying makeup, brushing their hair excessively, or staring at their body (or a part of their body). They may also monitor their size, weight, or what they eat, which leads us to the next potential red flag…
4. You have an eating disorder
There’s nothing wrong with having a healthy diet and choosing what you eat carefully, however if it turns into an eating disorder, it will probably affect your mental health; if you have a diet that is extreme, or hypocaloric, it will affect your physical health as well.
Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between poor body image and eating disorders such as anorexia, binge eating, and selective eating disorder (where people restrict their diet to only a handful of foods, often damaging their health as they are not eating enough calories and nutrients).
5. You have a low self-esteem
Do you engage in negative self talk, often without realizing it? Do you have a hard time putting yourself first? Do you focus on your positive traits, or do you constantly dwell on your faults and insecurities?
Low self-esteem is that voice inside you, telling you that you’re not good enough (in life, in general). So when it comes to your body image, your low self-esteem will tell you that you need to change the way you look; that you should be ashamed; that your body isn’t as beautiful, as attractive, or as healthy as it should be.
6. You suffer from perfectionism
If you’re a perfectionist, you will probably have unrealistic body standards as well. Those who are perfectionists create strict rules for themselves, and have very high standards. The problem is that these standards don’t motivate them — they simply prevent them from enjoying life and loving themselves.
As we’ll see in a bit, beauty is subjective: you decide who is beautiful and who isn’t. If you have decided you will never be beautiful unless you reach certain standards, you will almost certainly feel depressed and have a negative body image.
7. You think others judge your body
Other people will never judge you based on the way your body looks, unless they have a poor body image as well. When you have unrealistic body standards, you obsess over the way you look, so you may think others will do the same, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you think you won’t be loved or accepted by others unless you look a certain way, that’s a red flag. If you believe only those with a perfect body deserve other people’s attention, you probably need to change your mindset.
Let’s have a look at how you can do that.
Five tips to overcome poor body image
1. Recognize negative self talk
When it comes to your body and the way you look, pay close attention to what you say to yourself. As long as you engage in negative self talk, you will never believe in yourself, and you will self sabotage.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking something like: “I don’t like my body”, you want to replace that negative thought with a positive one, such as “my body is beautiful”. You can also use daily affirmations: you can write, read, or say them every morning, or every night before you go to bed. They will help you get rid of any negative thoughts you have about your body.
2. Put yourself first and improve your self-esteem
If you have an unrealistic body image, and it affects your mental health, it’s essential that you improve your self-esteem. Because poor self-image is usually caused by a feeling of worthlessness, you must learn to love yourself.
Surround yourself with the people that support you and make you feel like you’re special. Drink plenty of water and eat natural healthy food, so your beautiful temple has all the nutrients it needs. Spend your time doing what you love. Most importantly, never compare yourself to others.
3. Don’t use social media all the time
Specifically, don’t engage with the kind of content that makes you feel insecure. Don’t look at any image that displays fake, unrealistic bodies. Be aware of the content you consume on social media, because it will affect your thoughts and self-esteem no matter how confident you are.
Why do you think companies spend huge amounts of money to advertise their products? Because ads work. When we see a certain image five, ten, twenty times, we are more likely to remember it. When it comes to products, we are more likely to buy them; when it comes to pictures on social media, we are more likely to accept those pictures as “normal”.
4. Understand beauty is subjective
What is beauty? You decide. Some cultures, particularly in Asia, think white skin is attractive, whereas many Americans think pale skin looks unhealthy, and love to spend hours under the sun. In the past, a curvy body was considered beautiful and healthy, while today’s ads usually suggest the opposite.
If beauty is subjective, then you are beautiful no matter what! Be proud of your uniqueness; be proud of your features, and the way you look. Some people will love your body, and others won’t, regardless of your size, weight, height, hair, and skin color.
5. Understand others don’t judge your body
Seriously, they don’t. If they do, that’s usually because they are insecure themselves, and I suggest you don’t spend your time with such people.
Think of those who support, love, and encourage you; think of your close friends, or your parents. Do you think they appreciate you because of your body? Obviously, they don’t. They know you are a nice person, and they know you are special — that’s why they are happy to spend their time with you. Keep in mind: other people do not judge you based on your body.
Should you change your body?
Hopefully you have learned that you should love and appreciate your body regardless of society’s standards, other people’s opinions, or your own negative self-talk.
However let’s say you want to work on your body, and improve your physical fitness. Should you do that? Or should you simply accept the way you look, and focus your energy on something else?
The answer very much depends on why you want to change.
Is it because of your unrealistic standards? Is it because you constantly compare yourself with others? Is it because you believe happiness can only be achieved once you will reach the perfect body? If that’s the case, the answer is no — you need to fix your self image first.
On the other hand, if your choice is linked to positive emotions (for example, you want to improve your physical fitness to have more energy, health, vitality, and focus, and that’s going to improve your overall life), then go for it!
Be honest with yourself and identify why you want to change. Also, identify whether your goals will make your life exciting or miserable. As we’ve seen before, someone who is a perfectionist may have goals and standards that are unattainable, so instead of being motivated, they will end up doing nothing and feeling worse about themselves.
To sum it up: if you want to improve your body, do it because you love yourself, and enjoy the process.
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