When you look at yourself in the mirror, how do you feel? The thoughts you have about your appearance — your height, weight, shape, and the way you move — create your body image. If you feel unhappy with how you look, feel, and take up space in the world, you have a negative body image. A positive body image helps you see your body as it really is, and accept, appreciate, and love the skin you’re in.1

Negative body image …

  • Warps your perception of how you look
  • Makes you feel like your appearance doesn’t “measure up” to others’ looks
  • Creates anxiety and worry
  • Keeps you from feeling comfortable with yourself

Positive body image …

  • Lets you see and embrace your body as it truly is
  • Helps you remember that your value is rooted in more than just the way you look
  • Allows you to eat food, wear clothing, and do activities you enjoy
  • Gives you confidence2

What Affects Body Image?

The way you see yourself is influenced by many different things. Having a negative body image does not mean you are weak. Like your self-esteem, your body image is a product of your environment as well as your internal thoughts.

Your body image is shaped by:

  • Comments and opinions of other people about your or others’ looks
  • History of abuse of any kind
  • Messages from TV, internet, magazines, and other media
  • Your upbringing and culture1

Improving Your Body Image

If you want to change the way you think and feel about your body, start with good self-care:

  • Do something you love that exercises your body — swim, walk, run, bike, dance
  • Feed yourself good, healthy food
  • Get good sleep
  • Reduce your stress3

Counseling can also help you redirect your negative thoughts and help you accept and value your body.

Sources:

  1. Brown University Health Promotion
  2. National Eating Disorders Association
  3. Office on Women’s Health