We sometimes judge ourselves harshly when what we should be doing is to forget about idealised ideas of beauty and be grateful for who we are and what we look like.
Before we begin, take a few minutes and answer these questions:
- What are the three things you like about the way you look?
- What are the three things you like about yourself that has nothing to do with how you look?
- What does a positive body image mean to you?
These questions seem easy but can be very difficult to answer too. Unfortunately, we can be and are our worst critic. When was the last time you said or thought something nice about yourself? We are all guilty of bashing ourselves, ESPECIALLY on how we look.
What is body image? Let me tell you what is NOT body image. Body image is not about how you physically look - your beauty or attractiveness. Body image is what you think about your body. It is developed through interactions with people and the social world. Body image is our mental picture of ourselves and is what allows us to become ourselves.
Body image can be determined by 4 factors :
How you SEE your body is your perceptual body image
This is not always a correct representation of how you actually look and most of the time, is incorrect. A common example of this is when someone thinks they are overweight, but in reality they aren’t.
The way you FEEL about your body is your affective body image
This relates to the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you feel about your shape, weight and individual body parts. It involves your feelings and when you are most likely to hear words like ‘hate’, ‘dislike’ and ‘love’ when referring to specific parts of your body.
The way you THINK about your body is your cognitive body image
This is a mental action and can lead to a preoccupation with body shape and weight. A common example of this is when someone believes that if they become slimmer or more muscular, they will automatically be happier.
Behaviour you ENGAGE as a result of your body image encompasses your behavioural body image
When a person is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may isolate or avoid their peers simply because they feel dissatisfied with their appearance.
People who struggle with a negative body image often have an imaginary ideal they want to achieve. We must ask ourselves whether we want to be perfect or real because this imaginary perfection only exists in our head. We are bombarded with images of photoshopped, symmetrical, flawless and unattainable standards of beauty and this affects the way we think and how we perceive ourselves.
The reality of perfection means that something is fully, wholly and completely itself. Take a tree as an example - when we look at one, we notice its beauty and imperfection. Maybe one side has too many branches and one side is bare, but it is perfectly itself. We need to know that we are perfect because we are who we are.
So, give yourself a break and be perfectly imperfect! We are not meant to achieve imaginary level of perfections; we are meant to be fully ourselves. Focus on what your body can do and all the wonderful thing your body allows you to do. Don’t spend precious time thinking about how you can change or manipulate your body to look a certain way. What is a perfect body anyway?
So I urge you to forget about the idealised version of perfection and give yourself permission to be flawed, wonderful, messy and very human. Redefine perfection and come up with your own definition of what you should look like. Love yourself and remember that self-love has nothing to do with how you physically look.