How Body Image Can Affect Your Mental Health
On any given day, most women are bombarded with images and opinions about what they should like. While out of one side of their mouth, society preaches how everyone should be comfortable in their skin, the other side spews ads for diets and pills to slim people down quick, bombards women with the newest cream or serum to make them beautiful, holds the skinniest women as the standard for beauty, and makes it increasingly difficult for anyone but average-sized women to find well-fitting clothes.
According to the commercials that attempt to sell the endless supply of products to meet beauty standards, women must smell good all the time, look younger than they are, have a tiny waist, big booty, and be blessed in the chest. To take matters one step further, female beauty standards require that you have little to no body fat, no body hair, and perfect hair, makeup, and wardrobe constantly. It's a lot of pressure and the expectations can become a financial burden.
The Aftermath of Expectations
When it comes to body image, perfection is what women are expected to strive for. Sadly, when they can not achieve the vision of perfection society has set in front of the average female, negative and self-esteem harming thought patterns can result. The pressure to fulfill the expectations set in front of women can often cause mental health issues stemming from low self-esteem, damaged confidence, or distorted body image.
Low-self esteem can prevent individuals from going out and meeting new people or engaging in new activities. They no longer believe they are capable of fitting into the crowd of people they would like to be friends with because they do not look like them. Poor self-esteem can be a barrier that prevents individuals from seeing all the positive aspects of themselves and their personalities.
Lack of self-confidence can result in constant feelings of sadness and negative self-talk. Negative self-talk can be one of the most potent forms of self-sabotage one can engage in. For example, say someone has signed up for a new class for group fitness. They know they have the strength and endurance to be part of the class and exceed the expectations they read about in the class description. They know they've got this—until they walk into class and begin to compare themselves to the people next to them.
Once the comparing and negative self-talk starts, people begin to doubt themselves and their abilities to the point that they may begin to ask themselves why they signed up in the first place.
Having a poor body image can result in overly restrictive eating habits or constant dieting. People who have a negative body image often engage in over-exercising or obsessive weight control behaviors. Instead of highlighting all the positive aspects of their bodies, hours are lost obsessing over how to achieve perfection by watching YouTube and TikTok exercise routines and diet tutorials, or late-night infomercials for products or methods to get thin quick.
When one cannot achieve what they feel is the perfect body image, they may experience a lack of self-worth so strong that they avoid social interactions. Other results of being unable to achieve perceived perfection are issues with anxiety and depression. When one cannot reach their self- or societally-imposed expectations, feelings of hopelessness and defeat seep into their souls and weigh them down to the point that they no longer want to try.
The Path to Positivity
The journey to find and maintain a positive body image can be challenging. The very first step to a positive body image is acceptance and self-love. You do not have to look like anyone else, nor do you have to fit into some box that strangers who know nothing about you created. You do not have to look like any media image, nor do you have to let anyone or anything else make you think that you do.
Every morning when you get up, go to the mirror and say, "Good morning gorgeous, you are perfect just the way you are." Positive affirmations are a great way to lift yourself up. Remind yourself that beauty is more than skin deep when you see something on social media that makes you feel less than your beautiful self.
Appreciate yourself and all that your body can do. You do not have to fit into any stereotypical look to achieve great things. How you look has very little to do with what you can achieve. Just because you do not have a particular body shape does not mean that you are any less than someone who does. Each human is distinctly different; that's why we are who we are. If everyone looked the same, the world would be a boring place.
Achieving a positive body image can be difficult and result in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. You are not alone. Seeing yourself as a whole person instead of a before picture in a media image can be challenging, but you can do this. Start by surrounding yourself with positive people who appreciate you for you, not how you look. Show yourself love and grace daily. Take the time to look in a mirror every day and marvel at your unique beauty and everything your body is capable of. Do nice things for yourself and engage in self-care while curating a new perspective on social media that doesn't compare or judge. Achieve Medical Center understands that breaking away from the constant barrage of social media that tells you there's something wrong with you can be difficult. Our compassionate staff can help you work through any mental health or self-esteem issues caused by constant comparison. Call (619) 387-7752.