Body image and self esteem originate from the mind and not the mirror. The way you picture yourself in your mind affects how you see yourself when you look in the mirror.
Body image is the perception one has of their physical self and appearance and the feelings which are as a result of that perception.
Therefore, body image can be said to consist of two elements: a mental picture of one’s body including size, shape and appearance and one’s attitude towards one’s physical self.
Two factors influence body image and they are individual/internal and environmental factors.
Our body image is subject to all kinds of distortion from internal factors like emotions, moods, early experiences, mental illness and so on.
Environmental factors may include cultural expectations and causes for obesity and malnutrition. Also, sometimes the way you think other people judge your appearance can affect your body image.
People with a poor body image are normally those on both extremes of the Body Mass Index scale i.e The Underweight and The Overweight. However, because society (mostly through the media) constantly show us the cosmetic appeal of weight loss, normal or overweight people have higher risks of poor body image as they tend to feel pressure to fit in. These people may go as far as trying to alter their physique such as by dieting or cosmetic surgery.
Body image is a major factor in self-esteem development.
The effects of body image on self esteem can be especially powerful during teenage years.
Self esteem relates to how much you like yourself, and how you recognize your individual character, skills and accomplishments. Like body image,self esteem can be based on how others look at you as a person.
Self-esteem could be used inter-changeably with the word self-respect and refers to a feeling of satisfaction or belief in one’s own worth. It reflects an individual’s emotional evaluation of his or her own abilities and also encompasses beliefs about oneself. Examples of such beliefs include:“I am competent”, “I am worthy”, as well as emotional steps such as triumph, despair, pride and shame.
Possessing little self regard can lead people to depression and tolerance for abusive relationships. On the other hand, too much self love may result in clinical narcissism which features an inability to learn from failures.
Apart from the very common high and low self esteem, there is also contingent and non-contingent self esteem. The contingent self esteem is derived from external sources, such as one’s success or failures, competence or what others say or think of you. The non-contingent however is not moved by circumstances; it is a constant assurance that one is competent even in the face of challenges or differing opinions of people. It is said to stem from an acceptance not due to the absence of guilt but inspite of it.
According to the Paul Lutheran Doctrine of Justification by Faith; “The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself inspite of being unacceptable“. Persons lacking a non-contingent self esteem are often faced with an incessant pursuit of self-value and because this is based on receiving approval, it is doomed to fail. Therefore, contingent self esteem is marked by instability, unreliability and vulnerability. Vulnerability features an avoidance of decision making and the employing of defense mechanisms like blaming others to protect their self image from situations which threaten it.
Individuals like these are often characterized by perfectionism and although perfectionism is great, like every other thing in life, it has its downsides which include a pessimistic and general negative outlook on life and an excessive willingness to please others. It might interest you to know that according to research, people with a vulnerable self esteem most often than not exhibit great self confidence but if checked, the underlying reality may be just the opposite: the apparent self confidence merely indicates their exaggerated fear of anti-feats (such as defeat, discredit, shame or embarrassment) and the fragility of their self esteem.
Sometime ago, I figured I constantly faced an exaggerated fear of mistakes and I was often very critical of myself. I had to consciously become aware of my inner critic and silence it when it spoke, because using self criticism to work on doing better instead of kind words of encouragement can be likened to choosing punishment over reward. Picture this scenario of a baby who tries to walk but falls. A baby who is cheered nonetheless to get up and keep at it is likely to do better than the one yelled at for falling or tagged a failure. Think about it.
Why is a good self esteem important?
Most teens with good self esteem find life more enjoyable;they tend to manage better relationships, find it easier to deal with disappointments and are more likely to stick with a task until they succeed. Also, good self esteem empowers you with the courage to try new things and confidence to make healthy choices.
Building good self esteem can take a long time and is not always easy but knowing you can improve your self esteem is the first step.
If you struggle with your self esteem, you could try talking to a supportive and trustworthy close friend or relative. Sometimes, expressing how you feel can actually be more helpful than bottling up your feelings. Talking to someone facing similar challenges could also help.
You can also take the following steps to develop positive self esteem:
1. Work to have a healthy body by exercising and eating nutritious foods
I find this to be one of the best and most effective ways to build body image and in turn improve self esteem.
2. Focusing on education
Learning expands knowledge which helps develop self esteem.
3. Take a new hobby or learn to play an instrument
This fosters confidence and increases one’s talents and abilities.
4. Set and reach new goals
Having something to look forward to gives you a sense of pride and helps you work through different challenges.
5. Always focus on your likable qualities:
Make this a habit. Remember you may not be perfect,but your flaws are far from fatal.
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