Many women — young and old — see there bodies as “not right.” They feel they are too fat or their bodies are not “good enough.” A negative body image is when an individual has an inaccurate perception of their own shape and size. For instance, a thin woman looks in the mirror and sees herself as 5 times heavier. Many women (and some men) feel that they are heavier than they actually are, and this perception can lead the person to diet excessively. Many women develop anorexia nervosa (restricting food intake) and bulimia nervosa (binging and purging). These are serious life threatening diseases. If you suspect you or someone you know has an eating disorder, contact a trained eating disorders psychologist.
Many of our ideas on how we should look come from the media. Most magazines have stick skinny, glamorous looking models that many young women want to be like. Celebrities are also culprits with pictures of too thin actresses who seem to have it all. Many young girls think that this is the way they “should” look. They think “if only they were this thin then their lives would be perfect.” But this is all a façade cooked up by entertainment executives in their large corner offices. These celebrities and models’ photographs have been altered to create a flawless (and thin) look. In reality, we don’t know what most celebrities really look like. But a safe bet is that are they just like us — “flawed.” Their bodies are not perfect; they have wrinkles and scars, and their skin sags. Many get plastic surgery and Botox to get rid of their wrinkles and scars-but they always come back. These celebrities are not any better than the average person but it is the entertainment industries job to make us think they are. The entire entertainment business is one big illusion. This is an important point to understand, especially if you are trying to accept your body the way it is.
Developing a positive body image takes time especially if you have been berating yourself for years for not looking “right” or “skinny enough.” The first thing you can do is to stop comparing yourself to others, especially celebrities. If you keep pictures of the celebrity you most want to look like, throw those pictures in the garbage or (better yet) burn them. This is a big step and one that will help you move ahead into being more self confident. You have your own unique qualities that make you special and it is important to celebrate those instead of looking at everything that you feel is “wrong” with you.
Next, write down at least 10 things you like about your body and physical appearance. This will get you to focus on all the good things about you instead of fixating on how you do not look like a celebrity. It is a good bet that as you get into this you will start to feel better about yourself and how you look. Once you have a good list, start to highlight the things you like about yourself. For instance, if you like your hair, find fun ways to style it that will make you feel good about being you. As you start to focus on all the good things about you, you will stop worrying about what other people think. You will realize it is impossible to please everyone. No matter what you do or look like there will be someone in the world who won’t like it. Instead of focusing on negative people, start to focus on the people in your life you feel good being around and who like you just the way you are.
Starting with these simple steps will help turn you away from the media perception of body image and get you into reality. We are all different and those differences are what make us all special.