What is Body Image?
Body image is the way someone sees and thinks of their body. There are multiple aspects to body image. The way you see yourself, the way you feel about it, thoughts and beliefs about your body and what you do about it. Your body image can be easily affected by the media, family, friends and social/peer pressure.
Body image is very closely related to self-esteem. If you have an unhealthy body image (if you think of your body in a bad way), you have low self-esteem, which can result in eating disorders and mental health issues.
More than 90 percent of girls – 15 to 17 years – want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest.
Due to low self esteem, 9% of Australians will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime, which right now is around 2,197,000 people.
In Australian adolescent boys, a third want be thinner, while over a third wish that they were more muscular.
Unhealthy and healthy body image
If you have a healthy body image, you are content with your body and the way you look. This usually results in a happier and healthier lifestyle, with less time spent worrying about how you look and not letting that worry inhibit social interaction leaving more time to develop friendships and enjoy talents.
If you have an unhealthy body image, you are uncomfortable with your body and are self-conscious with your look. This may result in an eating disorder, which can have an extremely negative impact on your life.
How to improve your body image
Improving your body image will not happen overnight, it will take time. Here are some things you can do to improve your body image:
- Don’t critique other people’s appearance
- Don’t exercise so other people think good of you, exercise to make yourself feel better and happier
- Spend time doing things you enjoy
- See yourself as a whole person, rather than individual parts
- Be kind to yourself, practice self-compassion
- Become more media literate, question what you see in the media and be aware of the images that are digitally enhanced or altered
- Focus on your uniqueness, talents and personality
How do I know if I or someone I know has low self esteem?
If you have low self-esteem, you may be feeling a little helpless. Your thoughts might be negative and pessimistic, and you might be comparing yourself to others a lot and you possibly have an urge to be perfect. There are multiple other symptoms that comes with low self-esteem and an unhealthy body image. It is important that you recognise these symptoms and seek help.
If you think someone you know might be suffering with an unhealthy body image, then you might notice them ‘dieting’ and skipping meals. They may be defensive and won’t respond well to even constructive criticism. They may be talking badly about themselves and they might be worrying a lot. Make sure that these signs don’t go ignored and that you make sure they get help as soon as possible.
What can you do to help someone with low self esteem?
To help someone with low self-esteem can be difficult if you aren’t a trained professional, so learning what you can about the subject will help a lot..
The first step is to talk to the person, and listen to what they say without judgement.
The next step would be to tell them what they can do to help themselves, and you can help as much as you can. Remember to have patience, this is not an overnight process.
The final step would be to provide support when they need it.
What are some foundations and other sites to help?
Butterfly Foundation - 1800 33 4673
National Eating Disorders Association - 1800 931 2237
Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800