Image of a woman in the distance stood on a black rock in the sea with sea spray splashing her. She has long blonde hair and is wearing a bikini.

Body Image and Self-Esteem: Why do they Matter?

Body Image and Self-Esteem

Last week I talked about body image what is it and why it’s important. This week I want to talk about body image and self-esteem. Your self-esteem can be greatly influenced by your body image, whether it’s positive or negative. I explain all in this post.

What is Self-esteem?

Before I go any further I’d like to talk about self-esteem, what it is and how it’s different from body image.

Oxford dictionaries define self-esteem as ‘Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect’. So self-esteem is the belief that we have in ourselves. Body image is how we feel about ourselves when we look in the mirror. So body image is how you feel about your looks, self-esteem is how confident you feel in yourself.

How does Body Image Affect Self-Esteem?

Body image is key to the self-esteem of women because society dictates, from an early age, that their appearance is an important basis for self-evaluation and for evaluation by others (Thompson, Heinberg, Altabe, & Tantleff-Dunn, 1999). So body image and self-esteem are closely linked because society puts such pressure on girls and women to be beautiful. Society says that women are only worthy of praise and adoration if they conform to what are becoming unrealistic ideas of attractiveness.

Teenage girls are most affected when it comes to body image and self-esteem because during puberty their bodies go through changes that move them further away from what is considered beautiful. Most teenagers get acne and it’s normal for girls to gain more body fat because the body needs a certain amount of fat for reproduction and periods. Breasts grow, sometimes at the same rate and sometimes one is bigger than the other, and hips become curvier. In a society that says the ideal figure should be thin, with a flat stomach, small waist, boyish hips, large breasts, be muscular and have flawless skin (Groesz, Levine, & Murnen, 2002; Harrison, 2003), it’s no wonder that body image and therefore self-esteem take a big hit during girls’ teenage years.

Why is Self-Esteem Important?

A person who has developed healthy self-esteem is more likely to be self-motivated, self-reliant, and able to sustain respectful and fulfilling relationships with others (Pummer, 2014). Self-esteem effects your confidence in yourself.

With low self-esteem you’re more likely to believe others when they tell you negative things, you’re also less likely to put yourself out there in the world for fear of failure. If your self-esteem is good you will likely have the confidence in yourself and abilities and the belief that you can come back from any setbacks and that you can learn from your failures.

How can we improve Self-Esteem?

Focus on your achievements – sometimes I think we all spend so much time focussing on the negative parts of our lives, we forget to sit back and appreciate our acheievements. As a blogger I often sit and think that I don’t have enough time to do ALL the things alongside my day job and having a toddler. But if I sit and look at the things that I’ve achieved in my blog so far, I feel like I can take on the world.

Act as if you’re confident (even if you don’t feel confident) – this is the secret to my success in my day job. I walk the walk and talk the talk, but inside I’m shaking in my boots. When people ask me about my confidence in that environment and I admit that it’s all an act, a persona completely different to the ‘me’ out of work, generally they don’t believe me.

Set measurable goals and take steps to achieve them – if your goals aren’t measurable it’s impossible to work out if you’ve actually acheived what you set out to do and you will feel like a failure.
Goals don’t have to be work specific either, in 2011 myself and my now husband decided it would be the year where we bought a brand new car and went on a holiday abroad. At the beginning of that year both of those things seemed a long way off. But we booked the holiday in January with a minimum deposit and set monthly payment goals. In September we researched cars that would suit us and the kind of payments we could afford. We weren’t rich by a long way, but we made it happen. Looking back on that year, I still feel really proud.

Remember that looks aren’t everything – I know this is easier said than done, and I don’t practice this anywhere near as often as I preach it. But when the link between body image and self-esteem it makes sense to try to remove it. Focus on your personality, on those things that make you a good person. Pride yourself on being kind and helpful to others. Focus on being a good parent and setting good examples for your children, or your leadership qualities or ability to be a good team player. There are so many more things to take pride in than your appearance.

I would like to make it clear that I’m not criticising anyone who takes pride in their appearance. What I’m saying is do it for yourself, not because you are trying to conform to society’s definition of beauty.

Body Image and Self-Esteem in pink text against a bright green background above an image of a woman in the distance stood on a black rock in the sea with sea spray splashing her. She has long blonde hair and is wearing a bikini.

You may also enjoy:

5 Top Tips for Raising Kids with a Positive Body Image

What is Body Image?

8 Children’s Books with Strong Female Characters

Choosing Sanitary Products – What are your Options?

 

References

Groesz, L. M., Levine, M. P., & Murnen, S. K. (2002). The effect of experimental presentation of thin media images on body satisfaction: A meta –
analytic review. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 1-16.
Plummer, D. (2014). Helping Adolescents and Adults to Build Self-Esteem: A Photocopiable Resource Book, Second Edition. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Thompson, J. K., Heinberg, L. J., Altabe, M., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (1999). Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment and treatment of body image disturbance. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

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