Part 1 – Your Body Image: Healthy or Harmful?

Do you ever have thoughts like these?

I am fat.

I am scrawny.

I hate my _______. It/they is/are so ugly.

My life would be better if I looked better.

If I were better/younger looking, I would ___________.

I will never look as good as _____________.

________ would love me if I were taller/thinner/more muscular.

I look disgusting; no one could ever love me.

You are not alone. At some point, all of us have had such thoughts – including the most popular kids in high school and the best-paid bodies in Hollywood.

In this three part series, we look at what is happening with body image in our popular culture, how your body image actually impacts your life, and ways to find appreciation for your body and love yourself again.

With her pioneering study from 1996, author and psychology professor Linda Smolak documented that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. This statistic holds true today. And poor body image is not a gender-specific affliction. According to many recent studies, men are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their appearance too.

So, what exactly are we talking about here?

Poor body image is not just a problem of being unhappy with what we see in the mirror. It also involves a skewed perception of what we see. For example, a University of Colorado study showed that the same women who overestimate the size of their waists by 25% were still able to accurately estimate the width of a box.

Compounding the problem are the unrealistic expectations of what we should be seeing in the mirror. From the moment we can understand what we are looking at, we are fed messages about “ideal” body types, what “beautiful” is, and information about other “preferred” physical features.

So, body image becomes a liability when you:

  • Feel unhappy about what you look like.
  • Have a skewed perception of what you actually do look like.
  • Have unrealistic or harmful expectations about what you should look like.

The stronger your dissatisfaction with your appearance, the more pervasively these body image issues govern your behaviors and experiences. Eating disorders, depression, substance abuse, and other serious problems are the results of extreme cases of poor body image. Limiting beliefs, stunted relationships, and varying degrees of self-loathing are some of the more every day results of poor body image.

In Part 2, we take a closer look at the various areas of life that poor body image affects and consider the possibility of experiencing hope and joy with an improved body image.