Body Image and Self-Esteem

Body image refers to how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. Essentially, it is the thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes we have about our individual physical appearances. It includes:

  • Beliefs about your own appearance (memories, assumptions, and generalizations)
  • Feelings about your body (height, shape, and weight)
  • Physical experience of you feel in your body as you move

Negative body image (or body dissatisfaction) encompasses distorted perception for one’s shape and may lead to feelings of shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness. Negative body image can contribute to feelings of insecurity and imperfection in comparison to other, and are more likely to experience symptoms of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.

Positive body image is a more accurate perception of your body, and acceptance for your natural body shape and size. Body positivity (or body satisfaction) involves feeling comfortable and confident in your body and can positively influence your self-esteem.

It can be easy to internalize thoughts and feelings at a young age that can contribute to positive or negative body image. Therapy can help us gain awareness of our existing internal body image to help us understand and explore opportunities to introduce healthier ways of looking at yourself and the body you naturally have. Having a healthy body image can play an integral role in maintaining mental wellbeing and eating disorders prevention.

Self-Esteem

Self-esteem refers to the feeling of satisfaction that someone has in themselves and their own abilities. Essentially, it can be thought of simply as one’s attitude towards oneself.  In some cases our self-esteem levels can have an impact on our confidence, feelings of worth, and levels of compassion towards ourselves. Research has suggested that factors such as genetics, age, life experiences, social circumstances, and making comparisons to others, are just a few components that can influence our self-esteem. Here are some basic differences between high vs low self-esteem:

An individual with high self-esteem may be able to:

    • Appreciate themselves and other people
    • Act assertively without guilt or shame
    • Handle criticisms without taking them personally
    • Communicate needs and values to others with ease
    • Reject the attempts of others to manipulate you
    • Are aware and accepting of a wide range of feelings, both positive and negative

An individual with low self-esteem may:

    • Have a desire to please others rather than meet their own needs
    • Neglect to share thoughts, feelings, and opinions as they are not viewed as highly as others
    • Have difficulty implementing boundaries
    • Have difficulty moving past or forward from negative comments, criticisms, or feedback
    • Difficulty asking for support from others to have own needs met
    • Experience self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy
    • Uncertainty of self

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of low self-esteem, psychotherapy can be an effective method to enhance self-esteem. Therapy provides an opportunity for an individual to share their inner thoughts and feelings in an environment that is non-judgmental, serving as a solid foundation for building healthy self-esteem. Moreover, therapy can help empower an individual develop a greater understanding of internal self-talk that can be damaging and work to find ways to address criticisms and find acceptance for who they are on a more personal level. Treatment for self-esteem can be a great way to develop greater self-love, acceptance compassion, worth, and esteem.

National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). (2018). Body image. Retrieved from https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/body-image-0

Orth, U., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Robins, R. W. (2010). Self-esteem development from young adulthood to old age: A cohort-sequential longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(4), 645-658. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2010-05457-009.html

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