Featured Illustrations: Rocío Montoya
Body image refers to the way people look at themselves and others. It is correlated to the way one perceives their appearances, the way they see their body in regards to height, shape, and weight, and the way one feels within their body. A positive body image involves truly accepting one’s appearances and recognizing individual strengths and qualities. It is about not being persuaded by the pressure to strive for the myth of the “perfect body” that was conceived by the media’s voice, or the ideals set by families and other societal entities.
Unfortunately, many people do not retain a healthy body image. Around 91% of women are said to have an unhappy body image. 40% of women and 20% of men of different ages, marital statuses, and races, agreed that they would resort to cosmetic surgery in the future. This negative body image has been forged by influences such as the media, peers, family members, and even the fashion industry. Some signs and symptoms of this prospect include and are not limited to obsessive self-scrutiny in mirrors, thinking of disparaging comments about one’s body, and comparing one’s body to other people’s.
Even though it is not always easy, it is integral that everyone develops a positive body image. If one does not admire their body or a part of it, this can hinder one from enjoying their whole and authentic self.
The reverse is true in the sense that if one does not value themselves, it is hard to notice the good their body has to offer and bestow their body the respect and compassion it deserves.
Having a positive body image includes the ability to accept and appreciate the whole of one’s body, developing a broader concept of what beauty is, having a stable body image, and acquiring a sense of inner positivity, and self-fulfillment as well. Studies suggest that women with greater resilience, which is correlated to family support, gender role satisfaction, and coping strategies, have a higher probability of developing a positive body image. It is important that for one to have a positive body image, that one nourishes and replenishes their self-esteem by loving their body, even the parts that one has not yet learned to value and appreciate.
Some strategies to develop a positive body image include eating well-balanced meals, as it makes you feel good and strengthens you, rather than controlling your body to fit an unrealistic image. Additionally, one can follow a level of introspection and understanding when one is judging oneself or others based on their weight, shape, height, or size. In these situations, it is important to replace these thoughts and focus on the good qualities of one’s body as well. Subsequently, writing a list of positive benefits of the body parts and features that one does not like or struggles to accept is a stepping stone to a more positive body image as well. Lastly, there are numerous resources and support systems to support people on this journey. For instance: