We all have our own perception of our bodies, this perception of how we think (mental) and feel (emotional) about ourselves can be positive or negative, fixed or can fluctuate. It is how we perceive ourselves not just when we look in the mirror but a mental image of ourselves. How we think and feel about our bodies such as size, weight, and general appearance. All of which can influence our mental health and our self-worth, not always in a healthy way. A negative body image and unrealistic expectations can lead to an increase in mental ill health such as body dysmorphia, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. It can lead to obsessive behaviors such as what a person eats and the amount of exercise they undertake.
The perception of beauty differs across generations, culture, and sex. External factors such as social media, advertisements, unrealistic expectations, family, and friends can influence how we see ourselves and can start in early childhood irrespective of gender, culture, and generation. It is thought that girls are more likely to have a negative body image than boys.
Body image is also influenced by the environment that we grow up in, such as being bullied for our appearance, exposure to family and friends with poor body image, those who excessively exercise and have eating disorders for instance. All can influence how a person thinks and feels about themselves whether they intend to or not. A negative body image impacts on a person’s self-esteem, influences how a person cares for themselves, their values, and self-respect.
“Almost 1 in 3 people are stressed by body image that they felt overwhelmed
or unable to cope.” Mental Health Foundation
Maintaining a positive body image is important but how do we do this?
Sometimes it is easier said than done to change how we feel about ourselves, these perceptions can be fixed, entrenched thoughts that have developed over several years. These thoughts will not go over night with Internal and external influences in our daily lives, creating conflict as to how we feel and think about ourselves. This vicious cycle, as well as internal and external influences makes it harder to change how we feel. Until we genuinely acknowledge, accept, and believe in ourselves and our appearance rather than finding flaws, dislikes, and generally disapproving ourselves. Mental health will suffer and, in some cases, physical health similarly. Rather than trying to change how we look to achieve what we believe to be an ‘ideal’ we need to look at our mindset.
It is important to understand our barriers, to help us overcome the hurdles we will encounter when trying to improve how we think and feel about ourselves and being able to recognize unrealistic body images and photos where filters have been used. This includes challenging the thoughts that we have about ourselves, start small, be realistic, and what is achievable this minimizes the risk of setting ourselves up to fail.
Don’t feel under pressure to undergo surgical or non-surgical procedures, these may not be a solution to how you feel and, in some instances, can make you feel worse.
Take a break from social media or have a cleanse. Remove apps, webpages, hashtags you follow, social medial/certain accounts and or groups, anything that is reinforcing those negative feelings.
Remove toxic, negative people from your circle. Think about whether other people’s opinions of you matter? consider the negative impact these people have on how you think and feel about yourself.
Instead of seeking out and focusing on flaws, focus on the positive qualities that you have not the negative, and tell yourself how good you look. A negative mindset will lead to a negative body image.
No one is perfect, we are all individuals, if we all looked and behaved the same, we would be boring. Think about whether you want to be like everyone else blended into society? Be your own person, and be proud of that, rather than conforming to unrealistic idealization. Appreciate, love, and respect yourself, self-approval is associated with a positive body image.
If you start to doubt your appearance, sit in a train station, or somewhere busy, and people watch, look around at everyone going about their daily business. You will see a lot of people in different, shapes, sizes, and various appearances. How many people look like the unrealistic ideation that is portrayed on social media? Not many, the people you see out and about every day is the reality.
Self-approval = positive body image.
Dress and behave in a way that makes you comfortable rather than what the media dictates, have confidence from within!
Get support, talk to friends and family. Having open and honest discussions about how you feel is a step in the right direction. Be positive around each other and be clear with each other as to what is acceptable to discuss.
Don’t feel ashamed to be who you are!
About Claire Newman
Claire is a registered mental health nurse, has a degree in psychology, is a level 7 assessor for Derma Medical, and has an MSc in nursing. She left her full time NHS post as a ward manager in 2019 to concentrate on her clinic, Soft Touches Clinic. Claire has over 20 years of medical experience and opened her clinic in 2014. She offers a 1:1 mentoring service for medical professionals new to aesthetics or those wanting to build confidence and develop skills.
She has written and delivers mental health training to clinic owners from her clinic, looking at all aspects of mental health. Claire signposts her own patients for anxiety, depression and menopause
The clinic is CQC registered and she is registered with JCCP and is a safety in Beauty verified Trusted Professional.