Body Image and Self-Esteem
Body image and self-esteem are closely ingrained with many of us. I’ve been all messed up on the issue of body image and self-esteem for much of my life. If my body happened to be in the losing weight mode, my self-esteem (or what I perceived was self-esteem) was high. If I was on the up mode of eating out of control and gaining weight, my self-esteem plummeted. What I’ve since realized is that my self-esteem includes ALL of me, actually more inner traits, characteristics and values, and not just my body. My body image was completely skewed. Now that I am almost 9 years post-op, my body image is probably the most accurate than it ever has been.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? That is a loaded question for many of us. A better question is do you like what you see when you look in the mirror. Not just physically but do you like the person looking back at you?
I’m fat. I’m too skinny. I’d be happy if I were taller, shorter, had curly hair, straight hair, a smaller nose, bigger muscles, longer legs. Do any of these statements sound familiar? Are you used to putting yourself down? If so, you’re not alone. As a a person that struggles with weight and had weight loss surgery, you’re going through a ton of changes in your body. And as your body changes, so does your image of yourself. Lots of people have trouble adjusting, and this can affect their self-esteem.
Self-esteem is all about how much people value themselves, the pride they feel in themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect how you act. A person who has high self-esteem will make friends easily, is more in control of his or her behavior, and will enjoy life more.
Body image is how someone feels about his or her own physical appearance.
For many people, especially those that have weight loss surgery or lost a lot of weight, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem.
Body Image and Self-Esteem Influences:
Some teens struggle with their self-esteem when they begin puberty because the body goes through many changes. These changes, combined with a natural desire to feel accepted, mean it can be tempting for people to compare themselves with others. They may compare themselves with the people around them or with actors and celebs they see on TV, in movies, or in magazines. That unfavorable comparison continues into their adulthood and is never adjusted.
When we are overweight, our weight plays a big part in our self-esteem taking a hit or multiple hits. Others tend to think less of us or consider less of us so we take that on ourselves. Possibly, it doesn’t come from others but we do it to overselves too.
Family life can sometimes influence a person’s self-esteem. Some parents spend more time criticizing their kids and the way they look than praising them. This criticism may reduce a person’s ability to develop good self-esteem. This can carry well into adulthood.
People may also experience negative comments and hurtful teasing about the way they look from others. Although these often come from ignorance, sometimes they can affect another person’s body image and self-esteem.
We lives our lives in bodies that we don’t like or even are ashamed of and that plays into our self-esteem. Essentially, we think our body = our value as a person and our self-esteem.
A positive, optimistic attitude can help people develop strong self-esteem — for example, saying, “Hey, I’m human” instead of “Wow, I’m such a loser” when you’ve made a mistake, or not blaming others when things don’t go as expected.
Knowing what makes you happy and how to meet your goals can help you feel capable, strong, and in control of your life. A positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle (such as exercising and eating right) are a great combination for building good self-esteem.
Tips for Improving Your Body Image
Some people think they need to change how they look or act to feel good about themselves. But actually all you need to do is change the way you see your body and how you think about yourself.
The first thing to do is recognize that your body is your own, no matter what shape, size, or color it comes in. But it’s no one’s business but your own what your body is like — ultimately, you have to be happy with yourself.
Next, identify which aspects of your appearance you can realistically change and which you can’t. Everyone (even the most perfect-seeming celeb) has things about themselves that they can’t change and need to accept — like their height, for example, or their shoe size.
If there are things about yourself that you want to change and can (such as how fit you are), do this by making goals for yourself. For example, if you want to get fit, make a plan to exercise every day and eat nutritious foods. Then keep track of your progress until you reach your goal. Meeting a challenge you set for yourself is a great way to boost self-esteem!
When you hear negative comments coming from within yourself, tell yourself to stop. Try building your self-esteem by giving yourself three compliments every day. While you’re at it, every evening list three things in your day that really gave you pleasure. It can be anything from the way the sun felt on your face, the sound of your favorite band, or the way someone laughed at your jokes. By focusing on the good things you do and the positive aspects of your life, you can change how you feel about yourself.
See yourself the way that you are. If you have a difficult time seeing your body as it is, ask someone to help you. When you are out and your friend or family member seems someone that has the same body type as you, ask them to point it out to you. It helps to see someone that has a similar body size as you.
Another tip is to look at the size of your clothing. Look at it on the hanger. Look at the smaller size, appreciate the difference from what you think a size of body would be to wear it and then put it on yourself.
Take photos. Photos don’t lie. If you review enough photos of yourself then you’ll get accustomed to your body image and body size.
Know that it is a process. Adjusting your body image is sometimes a slow process. Before you know it, and it doesn’t strike you like lightening when it arrives, you will have a healthier body image. The size of your body does not equate to your value as a person. Your body is your vehicle that needs tending to and maintenance, it needs good health to exist. Your self-esteem is an inner vehicle that is who you are, your values, your life purpose and the inner life you life.