Hey Psych2Goers, welcome back to another article. How would you describe body image? At a young age, many of us internalize beauty standards from society. These standards can often contribute to having a negative body image, and are made even more prominent by our age of social media. As a result, about 1 in 3 young people report that they are highly concerned about their body image (The Jed Foundation).
For many people, maintaining a healthy relationship with their body can be difficult– whether you’re looking at your body in the mirror or in photos or videos, you might have trouble accepting how your body looks. The distorted perception of your body because you compare yourself to others may make you feel shame, anger, and self-consciousness towards your physical appearance. With that in mind, here are six signs you struggle with body image.
1. Obsessive body checking.
It’s a normal and natural thing for us to look at ourselves in the mirror on a daily basis. We all gaze at the mirror to see if we look presentable, for instance, but for people who struggle with body image, body checking can become obsessive. Besides the mirror, there are other ways you might check your body. These include using your hands or a tape measure, weighing yourself, checking the tightness of your clothes, and comparing yourself to others (Clemmensen, 2015).
If body checking makes you stop or limit your eating, causes you to isolate yourself from others, or becomes a way to control your fear and anxiety about your body, it can become problematic. The behavior often increases your preoccupation and dissatisfaction with your body. Many people are unaware about how frequently they engage in body checking, and the method they do so. An increased consciousness of this might help you be able to reduce this behavior and improve body image.
2. Your relationship with food and exercise becomes obsessive.
When you perceive your body in a negative way, oftentimes you may try to take steps to shape it into something you’d want to see. Putting yourself on restrictive diets and other weight control behaviors may seem like the only options for you to be happy with your body. Instead of doing these things for your health and well-being, you’re only driven by what you see in the mirror. Over-engaging in habits you may associate with being healthy, such as calorie counting and taking body measurements, could actually be signs of poor body image (The Jed Foundation).
3. Your mood is linked to how you feel in your body.
Body image is something that can fluctuate from day to day. On some days, you may be feeling awesome with how you look! While on others, you may be feeling frustrated or embarrassed about your body, destroying your confidence. As body image is something that can often shift, the mood of those with an unhealthy relationship to their body tends to be based on how they feel in their skin. If your mood runs on how you feel when you see yourself in the mirror, your body image may hold a significant weight in your life.
4. You wear clothes that hide your body.
When picking out an outfit to wear, do you find yourself wearing loose, oversized clothes? Going on from how one’s mood can be linked to how one feels in their body, those struggling with body image may take some steps to make them feel better and more comfortable.
For instance, they might wear loose or oversized clothing. While some people do this because it makes them feel more body positive, others may do it out of fear of judgment. Since people with poor body image often believe that their body is prone to judgment from others, wearing clothes that hide the body can help alleviate this fear (Klinger, 2010).
5. You frequently compare your body to others’ online.
Do you find yourself comparing your body to others’? While comparing ourselves to others is natural, making body comparisons to unrealistic standards is a surefire way to break a positive body image. Studies show that appearance comparisons to idealized images are often associated with negative outcomes. In one study, participants comparing themselves to others in person had less negative outcomes (such as less body dissatisfaction) than when they compared themselves to others online (Fardouly, 2015).
If you find yourself often comparing your body to others’ online, it might be a contributor to poor body image. “Detoxing” your feed, or unfollowing triggering accounts that make you feel worse about your appearance, can potentially improve your body image.
6. There’s always something to “fix” about your body.
When you look in the mirror, do you always see something that you don’t like? You might try to fix it, but when you look in the mirror again, another “flaw” becomes apparent. This keeps going on and on– there’s something that needs to be fixed every time.
A desire to fix something about your body is an indicator of poor body image. Perfectionism plays a large role in those with a poor relationship with their body– for them, there’s constantly something that needs to be “fixed” (Wade, 2013).
This perfectionist behavior can be harmful. A constant dissatisfaction with certain parts of your physical appearance may lead to the rise of certain eating disorders and mood disorders. Acknowledge and appreciate your flaws. They may make you different from others, but that’s what gives you your individuality and uniqueness.
Anyone can have poor body image. Worries about weight, height, muscularity, and other physical features can affect anybody. If you’re trans or non-binary, dealing with body image can be especially difficult.
A poor body image is crucial to acknowledge and address. Not addressing it can pose risk to harmful outcomes, such as reduced self-esteem, mood disorders, and disordered eating. If you struggle with the way you perceive your body, you could also be inclined to develop poor eating and exercising habits that can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. Society creates a beauty standard that is not fair to so many of us, leading to dissatisfaction with ourselves, even when we are all truly beautiful in our own ways. Deconstructing this standard starts with everyone being their real, authentic selves. Surrounding yourself with real people can help you realize that you truly are not the outlier that you think you are. You are beautiful. Thanks for reading.
Clemmensen, T. (2015, March 13). Shape Checking and Body Image. Eating Disorder Hope. https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image/shape-checking-and-body-image
Fardouly, J., Vartanian, L. Appearance comparisons and body image in women’s everyday lives. J Eat Disord 3, O20 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-3-S1-O20
Klinger, D. (2010, August 2). How Body Shame Can Affect Clothing Choices. GoodTherapy. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-body-shame-can-affect-clothing-choices
Understanding Body Image Struggles. (n.d.). The Jed Foundation. https://jedfoundation.org/resource/understanding-body-image-struggles/
Wade, T. D., & Tiggemann, M. (2013). The role of perfectionism in body dissatisfaction. Journal of eating disorders, 1, 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2