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Creating a Positive Body-Image

Does something about your body bug you? Maybe you believe you'd be happier if only you were thinner, taller, shorter, more muscular -- whatever.

If so, you may be creating frustration and anxiety by trying to reach unattainable standards of beauty. To a healthy and productive life, experts suggest that you stop trying to change your natural body shape and start changing the way you think about it, instead. 

Everyone has a "body concept" – a set of ideas about himself or herself and his or her body, including what he or she looks like. A person's body concept changes over the years and depends a great deal on what's happening at a given point in time. A person can also change his or her "body-esteem" – or opinions about what he or she sees in the mirror.

His eyes/her eyes

In general, society gives men and women very different messages about their bodies, how they should look and what they should do.

Men, for example, are more often taught to think of their body as an "instrument of action" that is strong and powerful. Most women, in contrast, tend to focus on being physically attractive and, many times, overly thin.

The sexes also tend to evaluate their bodies in different ways:

  • Women either love their body or hate it. Men feel either positive or neutral.

  • Women look at their body part by part. Men consider their body as a whole.

  • Women are concerned about looking young. Men don't mind a few wrinkles.

Accent the positive

Low body-esteem, like low self-esteem, can leave you feeling depressed, frustrated, and socially isolated.

It can also lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as eating disorders, using steroids to build more muscle, fad diets, and even smoking to control weight.

Instead of punishing yourself for what you don't have or can never be, try building a positive concept of your body and yourself based on values that will last.

Here are some strategies:

  • Get moving. Physical activity has positive effects on your mental health in general. This easily translates into higher body-esteem. Regular exercise also can improve your posture, muscle tone and overall cardiovascular fitness – all elements that make you look good to yourself and others.

  • Throw away the fashion magazines. They can make you feel bad about your looks, and they can also encourage unhealthy eating and exercise habits.

  • Focus on goals that are related to what you value about yourself and your life. Concentrate on things like building work skills and interpersonal skills – things you can really use.

  • Be realistic about what you want for your body and yourself.