How Body Image Affects Self-Esteem: Are You Hot or Not?
How's your body image? Are you attractive? Do you like the way you look? Do other people think you're beautiful? It's hard to talk about body image without sinking deep into our most vulnerable places. As standards of beauty become progressively less realistic (hello Instagram filters, goodbye pores), being able to have an honest conversation with ourselves about our looks becomes increasingly difficult. Yet we each live within our own, unique bodies every day–being able to look at them in a realistic (and non-damaging) way is a valuable tool towards understanding who we are, developing a healthy body image, and ultimately towards building self-esteem.
How Negative Body Image Affects Self-Esteem
How much does your body image affect your self-esteem? Picture self-esteem as a blueberry pie. Each piece is an aspect of our self-esteem. Perhaps there is a piece representing intelligence, loyalty, strength, etc. (each of us will be different). The pie is cut unevenly–the more important an aspect, the bigger the piece. Now picture that we have the power to choose how many blueberries are in each piece. The more blueberries, the more satisfied we are with the piece, and the more that piece adds to the quality of our pie.
This is the complicated world of self-esteem–not only do we have to identify the aspects and sizes of each piece of the pie, we then have to decide where to place our blueberries. Do we ignore all pieces but the largest few and try to fill them to the brim? Or do we concentrate on trying to equally cut our pie and evenly spread our blueberries throughout it?
Many people argue that when we over-concentrate on one aspect of our self-esteem (basically creating a one-piece pie), it becomes too influential on our self-worth. This is an easy trap to fall into with body-image–the world is filled with people obsessed with appearance. It's easy to adopt the belief that appearance must be a primary piece of our pie.
5 Truths About Body Image
Self-esteem comes from recognizing and respecting our unique insight and opinions on life and ourselves. As you consider the role that your body image plays in your life, here are five truths to consider:
- You are allowed to like parts of yourself. You are also allowed to dislike parts of yourself.
- You are allowed to want to change yourself. You are also allowed to not want to change.
- You are allowed to find a body image culture that works for you. You are also allowed to decide that none work for you.
- You are allowed to decide body image is too important to you. You are also allowed to decide if it is the right amount of important to you (or even not important enough).
- You are allowed to amend your opinion about body image and about yourself at any time.
How Important Should Body Image Be?
How do we determine if our body image is too influential on our self-esteem? By exploring the way we think about appearance. Once we can understand our general relationship with appearance, we can decide if our personal relationship with it is healthy. As I frequently suggest, using exploratory questions is a great way to start this process. Here are a few suggestions:
- On a scale from one to 10, how important is appearance to me?
- Do I like my answer to the last question? Why or why not?
- How important do I think appearance should be?
- Where do I think my answer to the last question comes from? Is it internal or external?
- What feelings come up when I think about appearance?
In the following video, I explore this concept more deeply:
How much is your body image influencing your self-esteem and the rest of your life?
Mahrer, B. (2019, May 30). How Body Image Affects Self-Esteem: Are You Hot or Not?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2019/5/how-body-image-affects-self-esteem-are-you-hot-or-not
Author: Britt Mahrer
I love the analogy with the blueberry pie. Most people would only think in terms of the slices and size, but I love that you take it the next level with amount of blueberries in each. The truths are also so important for people to remind themselves of. I think this is one of the most notable: "You are allowed to like parts of yourself. You are also allowed to dislike parts of yourself.". When we think of positive body image we often fall into this trap of thinking that means we have to love every single inch of ourselves all the time and that can be overwhelming and defeating. Great read.
I think you point out something really important in your comment. The connection between thinking we need to love every inch of ourselves and feeling overwhelmed makes a lot of sense to me–I can see how a person would fall into that. Feeling that you need to convince yourself to change your thoughts without acknowledging and exploring their validity is a very hard way to force change Thank you for your comment.