Body Image Issues Are The Main Causes For Unhappiness And Low Self-esteem
Body image is how you see yourself; your physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. A low perception of yourself can adversely affect your happiness and confidence.
Body image issues refers to an unrealistic view of how you see your body:
“I hate the way I look; my nose is too sharp, my double chin is making me look fat, my eyes are too close and the rest of me… let’s not even go there. I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. My upper-arms are too big, my legs aren’t shapely and my bum way too round. Nobody will look at me ever, I’m totally worthless.”
This torturing self-talk is getting more and more common in people with body image issues caused by several influences and environmental factors.
Body Image Issues Explained
You begin forming perceptions of your body’s attractiveness, acceptability, and functionality in early childhood, and become more influenced as you age with feedback and opinions from peers, family members, society and the media.
And in a society that promotes unrealistic body ideals, it’s becoming more and more challenging to not compare yourself to these unrealistic standards.
And when you finally do end up comparing yourself, you start to experience depression, anxiety, anger and self-loathing, which leads to you avoiding personal interaction and developing unhealthy social and romantic relationships.
Mirror Mirror On The Wall: Who Has The Most Body Image Issues Of All
Body image issues and insecurities are growing more and more everyday. It is impacting individuals of all gender, ethnic groups, backgrounds, shapes and sizes.
Women who still idealise the Barbie-doll look, still don’t realise they would have to starve themselves to death to look like this famous doll. Nearly a quarter of women surveyed, believe that anxiety about what they see in the mirror has stopped them going for a job they wanted, while four out of five women now admit their body image holds them back from having a fulfilling relationship.
Where before it was mostly women who suffered from body image issues, nowadays men and children are joining the downward spiral - losing more and more self-confidence and self-esteem due to the way they think they look.
Although the negative thinking mental processes are the same - the body image issues men have is slightly different than the body image issues women have.
As the portrayed ideal muscular man grows in the media, real men get stuck in the real world with real bodies that are changing to suit the technological age where men don't depend on their physique anymore for a decent income. Men thus grow less satisfied with their own bodies, with potentially dangerous medical consequences such as anabolic steroids overuse and eating disorders.
And frightening new research from the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) recently revealed that some children as young as three years old have anxieties about body image.
One in ten early years practitioners involved in the study have heard a child say they feel ugly, while 16% have witnessed children saying they wished they were as pretty or good looking as someone else. Around one in five have seen children reject food because ‘it will make them fat’.
Body Image Issues Statistics
Female Body Image Issues
According to a new research study done just before Body Confidence Week, almost 10 million women in the UK felt depressed because of the way they look with a devastating impact on their self-confidence and self-esteem.
In an 2014 British Social Attitudes survey it said only 63% of women aged 18-34 and 57% of women aged 35-49 were satisfied with their appearance.
According to cosmetics brand Dove, over 90,000 teenage girls across the world underwent cosmetic surgery because they were unhappy by the way they looked. 85% of girls in Hong Kong said they wanted to weigh less, despite only 5% being clinically overweight.
Male Body Image Issues
A survey conducted by Psychology Today found that men believe if they lose their hair women will not want to date them, even though many women say they are willing to date bald men.
In an effort to become more attractive, men spend billions of dollars on things like hair transplants, cosmetic surgery and pectoral implants.
The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness reports that between 2.4 and 3.6 million men suffer from eating disorders today.
Studies have shown that men feel worse about their bodies after playing video games with ripped characters.
Children Body Image Issues
In the study done by PACEY, 71% of childcarers believe children are becoming anxious about their bodies from age three already, with some children who have already made up their minds about how bodies should look with strategies as to how to lose weight.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), one-third of teenage boys already behave unhealthy by skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives, just to lose fat.
JAMA Pediatrics recently reported that 18% of adolescent boys were prematurely concerned about their physique and half of them wanted to be bigger and stronger. The study found that peers are the main source of pressure to look perfect, according to 68% of boys surveyed.
In America more than a third of children and teens are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Body Image Issues Causes
Body image issues and eating disorder behaviors may be passed down from generation to generation due to genetics, environment and culture. This concept, labeled as thin-heritance, explores how a mother’s views about food, dieting practices, and negative attitudes and comments about her own body or her child’s appearance increase her children’s risk for poor body image and eating disorders. This attitude to food and body-shape which children are exposed to day-after-day in their homes, is even more powerful than anything created in the media, says the experts.
In all relationships (family, friends, romance) people look for acceptance and validation. And when they only receive criticism, rejection or judgment, they’re at increased risk of developing body image issues and eating disorders.
This is one of the most common causes for poor body image and the main reason people develop low self esteem: keep forming false beliefs based on the conclusions they make about themselves, and the lack of self love. The result is feeling undesired, neglected and unworthy, and some turn to food for comfort and consolation.
How To Curb Body Image Issues
Parents should refrain from making comments about their children’s weight or appearance, and promote positive body image by being mindful of making comments about their own and others’ bodies.
Previous studies found women who were put on diets as children were more likely to struggle with obesity and disordered eating, so parents should look at other ways to deal with their overweight children such as helping children appreciate what their bodies can do (movement, play and sport), and by explaining that people come in all shapes and sizes.
Model a healthy lifestyle
Children watch their parents all the time, so talk about body-health in a positive way. Parents should model body comfort, acceptance, and appreciation for what their bodies allow them to do. Mealtimes should be about enjoyment, family time, and educating about nutrition and teaching them how to respect food’s function within their bodies. Encourage regular physical activity together, and make them feel okay about how they look, and not let their looks dominate their sense of self-worth.
Parents should listen to their children’s concerns, and acknowledge the reality of their feelings.
Build their self-confidence and self-image by focusing on who they are as a person, and not what they look like. Boys should receive positive input from their mothers, and girls from their fathers.
In Men And Women
Recognize that bodies come in all different sizes and shapes - Your body is not and should not be exactly like anyone else’s. Learn to see your body as a facet of your uniqueness and individuality.
Be honest about your flaws - Be honest about your flaws say to yourself: “I’m not totally proud of this, but this who I am and where I'm at right now and that's ok.”
Focus on the other qualities that you like in yourself - Develop these capacities rather than letting your appearance define your identity and self-worth.
Focus on health - Skinny and healthy are not the same thing. Learn about nutrition, exercise, stay active, supplement with vitamins and drink enough water. Work for a healthy lifestyle rather than trying drastic regimes.
Find friends who are not overly concerned with weight or appearance - The people you surround yourself with, is very influential on your well-being. Surround yourself with healthy, positive, purposeful people.
Set boundaries around comments around your body - Let people know that negative comments on your physical appearance are not appreciated. Confront others who tease others on their physiques, make sure this becomes one of your values: respect for different types of bodies’ and looks.
Curb your mind - About your appearance and body. Write positive affirmations about your looks.
Aim for lifestyle mastery - Over your body, weight, or appearance. Lifestyle mastery is developing your unique gifts and potential, expressing yourself, developing meaningful relationships, learning how to solve problems, establishing goals, and contributing to life.
Give everyone real compliments - What you sow you mow. Everything you say about someone's appearance will have a positive or negative impact on the way they feel, which in turn will make you feel good too.
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