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When Obsessing with a Perfect Body Image Becomes a Disease

When Obsessing with a Perfect Body Image Becomes a Disease

It’s no secret that men and women struggle with body image. We are constantly bombarded with ideas of the “perfect body” and despite knowing it’s photo-shopped beyond belief, it can be difficult to ignore the feeling that we need to change somehow.

The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders claims that eight million people in the U.S. have some type of eating disorder. That’s about 3% of the total population.[1]

So what can we do? How to practice self-love without flaunting our “hot” bodies in the face of someone who hates their body? How do we overcome shame and practice acceptance? Read on to find out.

Self-worth is NOT about size!

Hey. You. You’re worth it. You deserve happiness. You’re an incredible person and you should really recognize that in yourself. If you feel like you’ll never be able to think positively about yourself, take a breath. We’ll get there together. Not only are you beautiful/handsome exactly as you are, but you’re smart and witty and just plain awesome.

First of all, let’s define some things:

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Body Image: Body image is just that; an image. It’s based on your thoughts and your feelings about your body. The way you think other people look at you can negatively impact your own self-views, and cause a slew of negative thoughts bout your appearance. It’s the way you feel about yourself, inside and out. And it’s a big deal [2].

Self-esteem: Do you like yourself? Do you recognize how awesome and unique you are? If so, you have great self-esteem. If not, we’ll get there. If you have low self-esteem, it can be really hard for you to feel worthy and confident. When you have good self-esteem, you feel empowered, courageous and confident. You find yourself really caring about your mental and emotional health. And it’s not just about liking your body. It’s liking everything that makes you, you!

    It’s okay that you aren’t happy with yourself every single second.

    Take this test adapted from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale to gauge where your self-esteem currently is. Add up the number of points you’ve chosen. The higher the number, the higher your self-esteem.

    The way you answer the questions can fluctuate, as we can’t all be 100% happy with ourselves all the time.[3]

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      Thankfully, there are steps you can take to boost your self-esteem.

      1. Realize how cool you are. Make a list of all the things that make you, you! This isn’t being cocky, it’s being confident. You have so many unique qualities. Appreciate that about yourself.
      2. Put your heart into your work. Whether at school or a career, really give 110% every day. Learning gives you so much power and the confidence to change the world.
      3. Stay active. Take a dance class or join a team. Go for walks and don’t text the whole time. Focusing on your own health is one of the best ways to be selfish and start to love yourself.
      4. Stop being so cruel to yourself. Do you tell yourself things like, “I’m so fat,” “I’m so ugly,” “I hate how I look”? Ouch. Write down the things you’re saying to yourself. Then think about the list. How does it contribute to how stressed out you are? If it does, try to get to the root of it. Maybe you tell yourself you’re fat, and maybe you have since a relative told you your stomach was getting big. It’s okay to acknowledge if you’re medically overweight and want to get healthier, but don’t confuse poor health for “disgusting,” “gross,” “unworthy”.[4] And don’t let someone’s words, no matter how recently they were spoken, impact your current views.
      5. Make a new list. Write down mantras that you will try to practice. Try things like “I won’t speak harshly to myself. I will not judge other peoples’ bodies in an attempt to feel better about mine. I will not allow others to be cruel to me about my looks.”
      6. Challenge yourself. Try to avoid insulting yourself for a whole week. How did it feel? Do you feel different physically?

      Ditch that body/image shame.

      Speak Kindly, even if the voice is in your head.

      The things you say inside your head don’t always stay there. In fact, the mean things you tell yourself can impact your emotions and even your opinion of other people. Even if you’re reading this and thinking that you are pretty kind to yourself, realize there is always room for improvement.

      So if your list of mean things you say to yourself is really short, focus on making it a goal to write an even shorter list. Monitor your self-talk weekly and consistently try to replace any hurtful words with kind ones.[5]

        Stop focusing on other peoples’ opinions.

        This is a tricky one, especially in a time of judging ourselves based on the number of virtual “likes” we receive. Overthinking and hyper-focusing on someone else’s words or actions toward us is dangerous and downright destructive.

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        Time to wake up, people. The voice in your head is not who you are. It’s just an excitable commentator. You are the game. – Mark Rice-Oxley

        Basically, we have to create a whole new relationship with our thoughts. We need to be aware of when that bad day we’re having was completely created by our own self-loathing. Be present in the real world, and spend less time on social media. Get in the habit of telling yourself why you’re awesome as soon as you wake up. Don’t obsess when things go wrong, celebrate when things go right.[6]

        Regain control.

        Fun fact: You are in charge of yourself. You determine your worth. Not the model on the cover of a magazine, not the popular girl you graduated with that has 3K Instagram followers. You.

        It’s just a fact: someone will always be wealthier than you, smarter than you, prettier than you, etc. But that doesn’t mean you’re poor, dumb and ugly! Why spend your life comparing yourself to other people when your body is the only one you get to live in. Love yourself. The rest will follow.[7]

        Drop the negativity, even if it means dropping “friends”.

        It’s an ugly fact, but it’s a fact all the same. Toxic people have toxic attitudes, and that toxicity is contagious. Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you, encourage you and love you. A wise woman once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” and she is so very right.

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          Quit comparing.

          I know, I know, I’ve already said this. But it’s that important! Psychologist Leon Festinger said that our desire to compare ourselves to others is a drive as powerful as thirst! Think about that for a second. The only person we should compare ourselves to is our past selves. Take a look at where you are versus where you’ve been. Appreciate those mile-markers, not someone else’s.[8]

          Remember: There is no such thing as perfection.

          I think we’ve all come across at least one person in our lives that seemed to have it all. The perfect relationship, the perfect job, the perfect bank account, etc. But did they really? Eh, probably not.

          When you look at someone’s outward appearance and assume you know how easy they have it, remind yourself that you don’t know anything about their journey. Instead of being jealous of that person or wishing you were them, appreciate how inspired you are by him/her and focus on making the necessary changes in your life to be proud of yourself.[9]

          So make it a point to start new today. Take baby steps toward liking yourself. Eventually, you’ll be taking strides toward loving yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone, physically, mentally or emotionally. Appreciate people for what makes them unique, and rejoice in what makes you, you.

          Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Heather Poole

          Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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          Last Updated on October 14, 2020

          Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

          Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

          Do you feel that you can become a better person, but your personality is hindering you from doing so?

          Are you one of those people who is making a conscious effort to change, but no matter how hard you try, you remain a prisoner of your personality traits?

          Don’t lose hope – it is indeed possible to change your personality!

          Personality Crisis

          According to the widely accepted model of personality with over 50 years worth of research and study, there are five dimensions of our personality, known as the “Big Five:”

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          • Extraversion: People with high levels of this personality dimension are much more outgoing and tend to be more comfortable in social situations compared to others.
          • Agreeableness: Your level in this dimension determines whether you are more cooperative with other people or competitive (even to the point of being manipulative) with other people.
          • Conscientiousness: Thoughtful people who have high levels of this trait dimension are much more detail-oriented and driven.
          • Neuroticism: Moodiness and the propensity for sadness are associated with people who possess excessive amounts of this personality dimension.
          • Openness: Imaginative and insightful people are very receptive to change and new experiences, whereas those who are not are much more stubborn and reluctant to try out new things.

          These personality dimensions are further shaped by our genetics and our upbringing, the latter of which also involves our living environment and culture. These factors ultimately help shape your personality as you grow up, some of which could lead to personality disorders.

          However, your personality is never fully set in stone. In fact, it is not uncommon for adults to tweak their personalities as they prepare themselves for new challenges and life situations. For example, stubborn partners will find themselves making an effort to become more cooperative with their loved ones if they want their relationship to work. While these instances may not necessarily lead to positive results, it is evidence enough that changing your personality is not impossible.

          The question that begs to be asked is this:

          How Much Effort Are People Willing to Put in to Make That Change?

          According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, only 13% of respondents were satisfied with their personalities – most of them wanted to change for the better. However, instead of encouraging these people to get help from experts or take courses, R. Chris Fraley and Nathan Hudson conducted different tests instead to see if the respondents can quantify their personalities to make the necessary changes. The results of the test were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which you can view here.

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          The first experiment involved an introductory psychology class, who were educated about the Big Five personality dimensions and asked to grade their personalities by filling out a rating form. They were then asked if they wanted something to change in their personality over the 16-week period of this study. To do this, they needed to find a way to change their undesirable personality traits using goals and metrics to track their progress.

          Among the 135 participants, half joined the “change plan” condition, in which they were given writing assignments over the same period to assess the changes they need to make for their personalities. Every week, they were also required to complete additional writing assignments to evaluate their progress further. The other half were not asked to write – instead, they were placed in a controlled setting and were provided feedback about their development.

          The second experiment involved roughly the same number of participants. The only variable that Fraley and Hudson changed is that, instead of focusing on personality traits, they targeted daily behavior related to the traits that defined their personalities.

          The result of both experiments demonstrates the capacity for people to make breakthroughs with their personalities. Participants were able to make strides by getting better scores on personality traits that they wanted to improve. However, the comprehensive change plans only had a modest impact on the actual changes in personality. Also, the 16-week period for the study was not enough for the participants to make the drastic changes one might expect.

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          Steps to a Better You

          Now that you are aware that you can still change your personality, below are some proactive steps that you can take so you can make the change as early as possible.

          1. Do not let “labels” define you

          You are not a shy and timid person. Nor are you a cold and callous one. You are simply a person full of potential to change and become a better version of yourself every day. You can be anything, as long as you put your mind to it.

          2. Do good deeds

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          Getting rid of a terrible personality can start with doing something good. A study published in Motivation and Emotion suggests that engaging in acts of kindness allows you to overcome anxiety. Letting the focus from yourself shift to others leads to more opportunities for social engagement.

          3. Just wait

          If you cannot force change, then let it come to you. According to a study conducted at the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics, change that naturally takes place is not out of the question. The more you undergo transformative experiences in life as you grow older, the more chances that changes in your personality take place.

          At the end of the day, change is inevitable. As mentioned above, our personalities are shaped by our experiences in life. By exposing ourselves to positive experiences that we can live by and keeping an open mind for our own identities, there is no doubt that change for the better is indeed possible.

          Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/GmoHIZ61eMo via unsplash.com

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