Mind-blowing fact: our perceptions of ourselves are usually not just our own.
Our views of our bodies can be heavily influenced by the world around us. It is how we interpret these messages that are key to improving our body image.
What Influences Body Image (and what to do about it)
1. Our Culture and Media
The ideals portrayed in our culture by media can impact our body image. When we receive repetitive exposure to idolized beauty standards that are often airbrushed or photoshopped it can lead to increased feelings of dissatisfaction with our own bodies. It is this comparison to the idealized body size and shape in media and social media that can trigger negative feelings and thoughts about oneself.
To combat this influence: Choose the media you consume wisely. Unfollowing social media accounts that trigger body shaming for you and seek out accounts or blogs that focus more on body positive or body acceptance messages.
2. Our Past Experiences
Physical or sexual abuse, bullying, or harassment based on body size, gender, skin colour or physical abilities have the ability to impact our view of self.
To combat this influence: It can be helpful to process these experiences with a therapist can help to stop these past experiences from continuing to influence your body image. It may also be helpful to confide in a close friend or exploring your emotions through self-reflection.
3. Our Parents or Caregivers
Often our beliefs about self are formed from an early age. Our parents influence our own thoughts and opinions in a variety of ways, both through actions and language that they use with us or themselves. Those who had parents that often criticized their appearance, made comments about their weight, or had strict rules around food, are often more critical of their own body.
To combat this influence: Reflect on the source of the negative self-talk or belief. Is this belief your own or your parents? And again it can be very helpful to have the support of a professional such as a therapist to work through this influence.
4. Our Friendships
The people we spend the most time with have a great potential to either positively or negatively impact our own body image. Having friends that focus heavily on their weight and appearance or often talk negatively about their own bodies or the bodies of others can change how we view ourselves.
To combat this influence: It can be helpful to set boundaries with friends when it comes to conversations about body image. Boundaries can look like, asking friends to talk less about topics that harm one’s body image, such as dieting or fat-shaming. Also, consider cultivating friendships that encourage you to feel good about your body.
5. Our Nutrition
Your thoughts and beliefs about your body and the way you feel about the way you look can be impacted by the foods that you choose. If you consider the self-talk that ensues after eating a meal that leaves you feeling bloated and lethargic when compared to a meal that leaves you feeling energetic and comfortable in your clothes.
To combat this influence: Start paying attention with open-minded awareness as to how the foods that you consume regularly make you feel - in your body and about your body. Once you're aware of how foods make you feel, choose the foods that make you feel good more often. A food-mood journal is a really great tool to use to combat this influence.
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What to do next...
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