We all sometimes evaluate ourselves in comparison to others. The problem with that is that most of the time, our image of others isn’t realistic. Which means we will have difficulties forming a positive image of our bodies.
What is the thing that makes us feel bad about the way we look? Where do we get the idea that we are not attractive and not perfect enough? The most straightforward answer would be – in social media.
Think about it – the moment you look at your phone, you are bombarded with pictures of perfect people. And it’s not just the celebrities’ pictures – it’s also the people in every possible type of ad. You can’t get away from the body image they impose on you. They are setting the standards of how everyone should look.
The issue is that most of us just can’t look that way. And what’s even more absurd- neither can those people in the photos. Their looks have been photoshopped and improved in so many ways you wouldn’t believe it if someone told you. And still, you will try to look more like them and keep feeling guilty when you fail. And keep building a bad image of your body without realizing how bad it is for your self-esteem.
Body image and self-esteem – where’s the connection and why is it important?
Body dissatisfaction, especially in teens, will most certainly lead to complex issues, including mental health problems like eating disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders. Mental health issues can heighten the negative body image, creating a cycle that is very difficult to break out from.
Your body image and self-esteem have a direct influence on each other. More accurately, the thought you have, your feelings, and the way you behave towards others and yourself are a result of the influence of the two.
Healthy body image is more than just tolerating what you look like or not disliking yourself. A healthy body image means that you accept and like how you look and aren’t trying to change your body to fit how you think you should look. It means acknowledging the qualities that make you feel good about yourself, apart from your weight, shape, or appearance and resisting the pressure to strive for the “perfect” body you see on social media.
In other words, if you don’t appreciate your body, it will harm the way you feel about yourself as a whole person. And it works the same the other way around – if you don’t value yourself as a person, it will be challenging to appreciate your body the way it is. And when you put these two together, they pose a threat to your mental health. If you think you don’t look good as others and you are not as valuable as others, it will ultimately end feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.
Don’t think that, in order to maintain good mental health, you should be happy all the time. Good mental health comes from learning how to be realistic about the way we look and what we are capable of as a person and to be perfectly fine with that. It’s about accepting yourself the way you are in the physical sense, together with all your talents and abilities.
It can’t happen overnight; there are a few steps to follow on an everyday basis to improve your body image, helping your self-esteem at the same time, and protecting your mental health.
1. Filter social media
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to accounts that are bad for your mental health. The moment you notice that an app or a Facebook or Instagram profile makes you feel bad about yourself, delete it from your life. You are the one that is in control of what you see and read, so filter what pops up on your phone or computer.
2. Be aware of your beauty
Be aware and grateful for what is unique about you, from your appearance to your personality, and don’t let it disappear. Everyone brings an individual and different perspective to the world, and it’s important to remind yourself of that.
3. Understand the “fake” reality around you
You need to understand that nothing around you is the way it seems. Nobody looks perfect when they get out of bed in the morning, and nobody looks as great in real life as in their pictures. They feel and look just as you do, so be realistic about others as you are about yourself.
4. Take care of yourself
Nourish your body by having a healthy diet and regular exercise. Do it because it’s beneficial for you, not because it will help you look a certain way. Don’t go overboard with special diets and intensive workouts. Be gentle and caring with your body.
5. Don’t fish for compliments
It’s nice to get compliments about your looks, but keep that from becoming a guide to what you think about yourself. Your confidence should come from yourself and shouldn’t be developed by other people’s opinions.
Be conscious of the messages you hear and see in the media and how they inform how people feel about how they look. Your body image will improve in time only if you make an effort to get better. The better you feel about yourself, the better your opinion of your body, and the more you work on appreciating your body, the better you will understand yourself as a whole person.