Accepting yourself as you are
What is body image?
Body image can be complicated. It is usually defined as the way you feel when you look in the mirror or how you feel about your body. A person can have a positive or a negative body image and there may be also times when a person’s body image fluctuates somewhere between the two.
What impacts your body image?
When a person has negative thoughts and feelings about their own body, this can result in a poor body image. Body image, both negative and positive is shaped by a few things. Comments from family or friends can impact on your body image and how you see yourself. If you are self-conscious or feel uncomfortable in your own skin this too can affect your body image.
Every day in the media people are bombarded with images that will challenge how you feel about yourself. Magazines, in particular, have images that have been heavily photoshopped and feature bodies that are unobtainable by anyone. Not even the models used in these photo shoots look like their photoshopped selves in real life.
Why is body image so important?
Body image is important as people who have a positive body image feel much better about themselves.
Positive body image can be achieved by realising that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone at some stage feels awkward about their body and how they look. How you feel today about your body does not necessarily impact on how you will feel tomorrow.
In the Dáil na nÓg report - How we see it: Survey on Young People’s Body Image, 77% of Irish adolescents ranked body image as being important to them. 57% of the young people surveyed expressed some level of satisfaction with their body image, which means 43% were dissatisfied.
What can I do if I have an unhealthy body image?
If you have a negative body image you may not like the way you look in the mirror, or how you feel about yourself, and have a poor self-esteem. In extreme cases, a negative body image can lead to someone developing an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia. If you are concerned about developing an eating disorder, you can read more information here.
Below are some things you can do to improve your body image
Avoid comparing yourself to others
We’re all different, so it’s impossible to look like someone else no matter how hard you try. Try not to compare yourself to your friends, celebrities or those you see in magazines. The images you see in the media aren’t real so don’t set yourself unachievable goals you will never be able to meet.
Instead of criticising the way you look, give yourself a compliment
We’re all guilty of being a harsh critic when it comes to judging ourselves. But instead of putting yourself down for the way you look, how about you pick out some of your best qualities and remind yourself how great you are. Finding it hard to remember those things? Write them down and keep them somewhere handy for when you need a reminder of what you love about yourself.
Embrace your differences
No two people are the same and accepting our uniqueness and embracing our individuality can help with self-acceptance and improving the way we feel about ourselves.
Be critical of the media
Don't be afraid to question the images and 'ideal body types' put before you by magazines or fitness bloggers. Instead, challenge industries like beauty, diet and fashion that make a profit from the unattainable standards they are setting for people. Shape Your Culture is a great website that is active in questioning 'the limited physical representation of women and girls (and increasingly men and boys) in contemporary society.'
Talk to someone
If you are worried about how much time you spend worrying about your body image, you might want to talk to someone about it. Try speaking to a friend or family member or if this doesn’t suit, try Jigsaw. Jigsaw have centres around the country and work specifically with 12-25 year olds so they are experts at helping young people. If there is no Jigsaw centre near you, you can also attend your GP and discuss any problems you may be having. You may also be interested in speaking with a counsellor.