Body image is how you view yourself based upon what you see in the mirror, how you feel about yourself and how other people react to you. If you have a negative body image you have an unrealistic view of yourself; you believe that only other people are attractive and you are not. You end up feeling awkward, self-conscious and ashamed. Extremes of this negative image are known as body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and this involves paying obsessive attention to what the person perceives as a physical flaw. Although this is more prevalent in women there are increasing incidents of men suffering from negative body image.
Usually most people are resilient to a little criticism and we all have something about our bodies that we would like to improve but the level of anxiety caused by having a negative body image goes beyond this; it can lead to depression, isolation, guilt and often obsessive behaviours.
Concerns have been expressed about the media perception of the perfect body or of beauty adding pressure to us ‘normal folks’ as we cannot reach such levels of perception. However, this is not the only influence on how we see ourselves. Another contributing factor is our relationships; subconsciously we compare ourselves to friends and family all the time but it’s not only the subconscious view. As I have already said our body image is also based upon the way other people react. If your friend drops little hints about your weight or your mum skips you when handing out sweets or desserts, it soon becomes obvious that they think you need to ‘go on a diet’. Partners are particularly influential in how we see ourselves, especially if they are adding pressure to make us look a certain way.
According to a recent study ‘weight satisfaction’ has far reaching consequences for our everyday lives by impacting relationships, personalities and even how much TV you watch. There appear to be links between your body image, your view of your partner’s commitment to you and your satisfaction with the relationship, anxiety, neuroticism and overall satisfaction with your lifestyle.
Body image and eating disorders often go hand in hand since our weight seems to be an obsession for the whole world; not just ourselves. You would imagine that seeing an overweight body that makes you feel embarrassed (or even disgusted) in the mirror would be sufficient motivation to lose weight and it might be if the weight gain was the real issue. Generally people don’t choose to gain weight or to become overweight; often there are underlying issues that have caused this in the first place. To be able develop a positive body image and to lose weight you need to establish what caused the initial weight gain and what continues to cause your body image issues. This will often take therapy and professional help to get to the root cause and put you on the path to recovery.
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