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How Negative Body Image Affects Mental Health

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought or said negative things about your image? If so, you are not alone. According to an international study conducted by Dove, as low as 8% of women feel content with their bodies. The average for the 13 countries polled was about 32%. Other studies suggest that negative body image affects mental health and life success.

Of course, there are varying reasons for lack of body confidence and poor self-image. However, I believe we can agree that much of it does stem from the media, celebrity idols, and the societal standards for beauty in general. Young girls are exposed to these things early and form opinions of what they “should” look like before they even get a chance to become women. This makes body positivity hard to achieve for many of us and is something we don’t automatically know how to do.

While some women shrug off these feelings, others are overwhelmed to the point they are unable to function well. This is where the danger lies. Feeling inadequate and ugly affects the way we live, react, view the future, and how we relate to others.

Teenagers and young adults can find themselves dealing with depression because of the negative emotions surrounding their body image. This can certainly lead to other serious mental health issues. These include eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, as well as mood and personality disorders.

How Does It Happen?

Negative body image affects mental health when we compare ourselves to others. Interestingly, what we often compare to isn’t even real. Society has literally taught us to Photoshop our lives for acceptance. Social media is a playground filled with misrepresentation of beauty and success.

We buy into the “thin is beautiful” philosophy and will try anything to achieve it. Additionally, we listen to the opinion of others and take to heart their criticisms. And when illness sets in, the dangerous cycle becomes a trap.

What Can You Do?

If you are suffering from poor body image, know that help is available. That said, I know that accepting the problem and reaching out for help is the hardest part. You may find comfort in simply talking to a trusted friend or family member. There are also support groups in most communities.

If the problems you experience are more serious and have compromised your work and personal life, professional help may be needed. Tell your doctor if you have eating disorders or are losing too much weight. There are specific protocols for mental and emotional issues such as bulimia treatment.

And remember these 3 things…

1. Not everything you tell yourself is true. You might see yourself as fat or too thin, but what are you comparing to? In other words, is your opinion based on true health criteria or just what you believe looks good? Additionally, we are always more critical of ourselves than anyone.

2. There is no such thing as perfection. Even the most glamorous film stars and models are made up to look different. Their flaws are hidden by digital and physical means. Though there isn’t anything wrong with trying to look and feel your best, being something you’re not can become obsessive and delusional.

3. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Don’t listen to the put-downs that others impose on you. Distance yourself from anybody who causes you pain and to doubt yourself. Find people who will love and support you for who you are on the inside and out.

So, here’s the thing: Be kind to yourself, accepting all of you. Find ways to silence that inner voice that constantly reminds you of your flaws. Do what you can to be healthy first. If you know you need help or if family and friends have suggested it, do what you must to get better. Nothing is worth sacrificing your mental health and happiness.


About Madeline

Madeline is a mid-west mom of three who spends most of her time refilling ice trays and changing toilet paper...just kidding. She is a high school guidance counselor, all around funny gal, and a writer. Her first book, Be Happy Already!", is in the works.

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