Having a positive perspective on your body is essential as you journey into adulthood. Find out how you can start the next chapter of your life with a healthy body image.
As a young adult, a positive outlook on who you are as a person – and what you think of your body — is a reflection of your thoughts and feelings about yourself. It is easy to fall into a spiral of negativity based on what someone may have said about you or your body. In addition to that, you may also find yourself guilty for being too harsh on yourself and setting impossible standards around beauty and fitness.
Sunway Medical Centre’s Clinical Psychologist, Jessie Foo, from Sunway Medical Centre shares her insights on what causes a negative body image and what can be done to change that unhealthy perception.
“Young adults are just beginning to explore their surroundings and are fairly new to society. They are usually are not very exposed to environments outside their school life,” says Foo. “On top of that, they are also in the early stages of finding their own identity and understanding who they are.”
Foo points out that stepping into unfamiliar territory may leave a young adult gullible and easily influenced by certain circumstances. This could, in turn, have a negative effect on their personal opinion around body image. Here are some of the factors to look out for according to Foo:
Environment. “Feedback or comments that these individuals receive from their environment about their body shape may make them feel uncomfortable about their body while they’re in the process of identifying themselves”.
Family and Friends. “When family or friends continuously comment on the individual’s weight or how they look, it will leave them feeling more conscious about their body”.
Media. “How the media portrays body image and what is considered attractive constantly changes. This makes it harder for individuals to keep up with the trend. What may be beautiful now may be something totally different a few years later”.
Bullying. “During childhood, experiences of being bullied involving the individual’s body shape will also contribute to a negative body image”.
Mental Health. “Another factor that contributes to how we form our body image is related to our mental health. When someone has depression or anxiety, they are susceptible to have a negative body image”.
It starts with acceptance
When it comes to a positive body image, Foo says that acceptance is the key. “This means you have the ability to accept how your body looks regardless of whether or not it is deemed as the ideal body type according to the media or society. At the same time, you are also comfortable and feel positive with the body you have”.
There are many daily practises you can do to create a positive body image. One of the most effective is to surround yourself with positive people. “Surrounding yourself with people who provide you with realistic yet positive comments or feedback will allow you to feel encouraged and supported”, says Foo.
It is also important to pay attention to your self-talk. “The next time you find yourself being unnecessarily mean towards yourself because of something you’ve done, ask yourself if you would react the same way if it wasn’t you but a friend in the same situation,” says Foo. “Would you criticise them or would you give them encouragement and be supportive? Why not apply the same compassion to yourself?”
You can also start making lists of your strengths, abilities, positive comments and compliments you’ve received to help shift your views about your body. “The focus between your outer appearance and inner self needs to change. You need to understand that feeling good about yourself isn’t only about how you look, it’s also about who you are on the inside and the great qualities you have, ” shares Foo.
While it is easy to get carried away with wanting someone else’s body type, say a celebrity’s, it’s important to understand that what is shown on TV, billboards, social media, etc. can be unrealistic and misleading — especially with the limited portrayal of diverse body types.
If you find yourself struggling with body image issues and aren’t comfortable discussing the matter with a family member or friend, Foo advices that you seek professional help. A psychologist or counsellor can help you improve your mental development so you can learn to love your body.
Do you have body image issues?
According to Jessie Foo, here’s how you can tell…
- You obsessively check yourself out in every mirror that you come across.
- You constantly criticise your body in your own mind or when you speak to others.
- You continuously focus on what you think is a physical imperfection.
- You frequently compare your body to other people’s bodies.
- You experience extreme envy of another person’s body shape. You consistently say that you wish to have that person’s body.