Body Image

What Is Body Image?

What do you think you look like? Body image is the mental representation an individual creates of themselves, but it may or may not bear any relation to how others actually see them. Body image is subject to all kinds of distortion from early experiences, the attitudes of one's parents, internal elements like emotions and moods, and much more.

A person's body image strongly influences their behavior. Preoccupation with, and distortions of, body image have been found to be widespread among American women and, to a lesser extent, among males. This mental image is a driving force in eating disorders, as well as mood conditions like severe anxiety and even depression.

In the midst of their angst, people tend to forget about the body's impressive utility: Our bodies get us from point A to point B, after all. Yet many people remain mired in a world where physical looks take primacy. To put body image back into perspective, experts suggest starting with a curb on the use of social media, platforms where visitors are constantly reminded of the outsize value placed on looks and image.

The Dangers of Negative Body Image

A poor body image can affect a person in many ways, including performance in academics or career, relationship satisfaction, and overall quality of life. In extreme cases, a person may suffer body dysmorphic disorder, in which he or she imagines a physical defect and obsesses over it. Often a person zeroes in on a specific area like the nose, breasts, or legs. In reality, however, this perceived flaw is not even noticeable to others.

People who suffer from this severe disorder obsess over the flaw to a point of dysfunction, with some even repeatedly visiting cosmetic surgeons.


Self-Esteem, Eating Disorders

Signs of Poor Body Image

People who harbor a negative view of their bodies may have chronic bleak and obsessive thoughts about the way they look. Here are some other signs of poor body image:

  • Focuses excessive attention on a minor flaw in appearance.
  • Views oneself as unattractive, even ugly.
  • Fears other people can see the so-called deformity.
  • Might be a perfectionist.
  • Avoids social engagements.
  • Constantly grooms and looks at oneself in the mirror.
  • Constantly hides the perceived flaw with makeup or clothes.
  • Constantly compares one’s appearance with other people’s.
  • Pursues excessive cosmetic procedures or surgery.
  • Needs reassurance from others ("Do I look fat in this?").
  • Is never satisfied with appearance.

Beauty, Perfectionism

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