Black and white image of a woman with waist length hair, from the shoulder to her waist, side on from the camera. She is naked apart from a sheet covering her front.

What is Body Image?

In a culture that seems to be more concerned with how people look than how they think, body image is becoming increasingly important. But what is body image? I lay down the facts in this post.

The 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence report was conducted across 14 countries with 5,165 girls aged 10-17. Of the girls surveyed in the UK only 39% of girls felt positively about their bodies. 9 out of 10 girls in the UK stopped themselves eating and avoided family, friends and trying out for teams and clubs because they felt negatively about themselves. To me these are shocking statistics. I can’t bear the thought of Ragamuffin avoiding people and doing things that make her feel happy because she’s ashamed of her body.

Gender stereotypes put more pressure on girls to be thin and to make themselves look pretty. For a long time a woman’s purpose in life was to find a husband and to have his children. A big part of that meant looking good. Thankfully, this is not the norm anymore, but women and girls still feel pressure to conform to social constructs of beauty.

So what is Body Image?

Body image is how we see ourselves when we look in the mirror. What you think about what you see depends on different factors, like how you feel and what you think makes someone beautiful.

How you feel about yourself looking in the mirror might not be what others think when they look at you. Different people find different features and body types attractive. However, the most important opinion of yourself is always your own.

Why is Body Image Important?

Body image is important because it can have a huge impact our mental health and how we behave.

It can lead to people avoiding friends and family and in some circumstances a distorted body image can lead to eating disorders.

My body image affects the clothes I choose to wear. Over the years I have (and still do) avoided some fashion trends because I worry that people will think I look fat. Skinny jeans are a prime example for me. I’m a pear shape so I carry most of my weight around my bum and thighs and I’m very conscious that they are not that flattering on me. So I don’t wear them. Even though it can be really hard to find other styles right now.

Can Body Image Affect your Self-Esteem?

Body image can have a big impact on your self-esteem. If you feel badly about the way you look you’re probably not going to feel very happy within yourself.

When I think I look good I feel more confident in myself. I recently bought a new pair of jeans to replace a pair that had a hole. The pair I was replacing must have shrunk with time because the new ones fit really comfortably and actually look better on me. I dug out a pair of brogues and put a nice top on and felt I could conquer the world. I was strutting up and down the office at my day job that whole day.

What can Affect your Body Image?

According to Psychology Today several factors can affect body image including emotions, moods and what we consider beautiful.

Moods and Emotions

If you’re feeling low you’re more likely to focus on your negative features. Feeling positive you might call yourself curvy, if you’re feeling down you might call yourself fat.

Attitudes of our Parents

From a very early age our parents have a huge influence on our behaviour and how we think. Something as little as your mother complaining she has fat thighs, or that she prefers your hair a certain way can stay with you for a long time. Hearing them judge other people “Look at the size of her!”, “I would never leave the house looking like that!!” can impact how you feel about yourself, you might start comparing yourself to the people mentioned.

Social Constructs of Beauty

Beauty is subjective. What one person is attracted to might not be the same as the next. Society tells us that thin is beautiful. It has become the norm for women to shave armpit and leg hair.

Everyday we’re bombarded by images of ‘beauty’ in the media. Most of the time the images aren’t even real, but we still compare ourselves to them. They’ve been airbrushed, hair and fashion stylists work with models to make them ‘perfect’ for a fraction of time.

What is Body Image?

So there you have it, that’s what body image is. Does any of this ring true for you? What effects your body image?

Stay tuned for next week’s post which goes into more depth on why body image is important.

What is Body Image? in pink text against a bright green background above a black and white image of a woman with waist length hair, from the shoulder to her waist, side on from the camera. She is naked apart from a sheet covering her front.

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