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The Relationship Between Body Image & Self-Esteem

Over-the-shoulder view of an individual looking into a shattered hand mirror and closing their eyes.

While body image and self-esteem come up tangentially, the direct relationship between the two is often left unaddressed.

Body image is how your own view of your body. This is a subjective view that can be heavily influenced by your own feelings and opinions about yourself. Self-esteem is your evaluation of your self worth. This directly relates to the level of confidence that you have in your abilities. Though different, it’s clear that the two share some common ground. 

How Does Body Image Affect Self-Esteem?

The way that you view your body has a profound impact on your self-worth. This typically takes different forms depending on your view of your body:

  • A positive body image can lead to high levels of self-esteem. Your positive feelings toward your body can foster confidence, develop your abilities, and help you feel happier. It can also spur you to take better care of both your body and your mind.
  • A negative body image can lead to lower self-esteem. If you have a poor view of your body, it can lead to harsh self-criticism, anti-social behavior, or a disregard for your own health. When taken to an extreme, low self-esteem caused by a poor body image can lead to depression, eating disorders, or other health concerns.

It’s important to realize that your body image directly impacts your confidence, positivity, and overall self-esteem.

Factors That Affect Body Image & Self-Esteem

Each person’s relationship between their body image and their self-esteem is different. Specific factors like weight or height can influence how one person feels about their body, but be entirely insignificant to someone else who might be worried about acne or a receding hairline.

Even so, there are certain factors that tend to influence most people. Here are a few of the most common ways that your body image and self-esteem can be either boosted or warped by your experiences:

Childhood

Your childhood can have a profound impact on how you view your body. The way that relatives comment on your weight or the example set by your parents can cultivate both positive and negative body image perspectives — and, by extension, high or low self-esteem.

Society

The people that surround you can also have a major impact on your confidence and how you view yourself. For instance, you may run into a hair stereotype at work or school that leaves you feeling you have to style your hair a certain way to be accepted.

The Media

Everything from television and streaming services to advertisements and online content can seriously impact your view of yourself. Traditional media has been severely criticized for the unrealistic bodily appearances that it encourages in viewers. At the same time, some companies have done their best to buck this trend and send positive and inclusive body image messages.

Age

Modern society glorifies youth. Society often also associates negative stigma with the concept of getting older. Often the older you get, the harder it is to maintain a positive body image. This can eat away at your self-esteem as you watch your physical appearance evolve over time.

Recognizing Negative Body Image

The benefits of having a positive body image often take care of themselves. However, if you have a negative body image, it’s important that you identify the issue and then take steps to address it. Here are a few of the most common signs of negative body image:

  • Your feelings about your body leak into every area of your life.
  • You use harsh, critical, and harmful words about your own body.
  • You avoid seeing your own body and do your best to cover it up.
  • You cause intentional harm to your skin or other parts of your body.
  • You obsessively pluck, shave, wax, or otherwise remove your hair.

If you find that you’re struggling with a negative body image, there are several ways that you can begin to ameliorate the situation.

Tips for Improving Your Body Image

Here are four helpful practices that you can use to begin to conquer your view of your body. They’re designed to help naturally boost your self-esteem and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Learn to Love Your Body

Accepting your body is the foundation for fostering a good body image. As long as you hold up unrealistic examples and expectations for yourself, you will fall short. 

Instead, turn your attention away from false standards and consider what there currently is to love about yourself. There may be unhealthy habits or physical elements that you want to change, and that’s okay. But on the whole, it’s important to learn to love your body for what it is.

Identify What You Can Change vs. What You Cannot

While there are some things about your body that you can’t change, it’s okay to look for small areas where you can make alterations, such as:

  • Your hair: If you suffer from hair loss for legitimate reasons, you can find a good hair restoration product to help you maintain your hair.
  • Your skin: There are many creams, lotions, and supplements that you can use to maintain the elasticity and hydration in your skin.
  • Your clothing: Clothing styles should never define you. Even so, you can use purposeful apparel choices to help bolster your confidence in your appearance.

While you should love who you are at the core, there are always little activities that can help provide a boost to your image and your self-esteem.

Adopt Healthy Habits

You may find that your lifestyle isn’t conducive to a good body image or healthy self-esteem. For instance, you may hang out with friends that are obsessed with their appearance or have a habit of watching shows that glorify unrealistic bodily characteristics. If so, consider ways that you can shift your habits and activities to foster a healthier mindset toward yourself.

If you’re dealing with something more serious, like stress as a parent, you may find that you can’t simply walk away from the situation. However, there are still many ways to cope with the stress, such as sleeping better or addressing hair loss, that can help boost your body image and your self-esteem.

Seek Professional Help

If you find that all of the above tips haven’t helped you truly shake those negative feelings, you may want to consider getting professional help. This isn’t shameful, nor does it indicate failure; it merely shows that you recognize the seriousness of your struggle with your body image. It also shows that you truly want to find a counselor or therapist to help you overcome the cycle of dark thoughts and live in the light of a positive body image and high self-esteem.

Body Image, Self Esteem

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