By Peter Kates
More than three quarters of Americans (79 percent) are unhappy with how their body looks at times, according to a 2018 online survey conducted by Ipsos on behalf of RiverMend Health. Twenty-one percent report always being satisfied with how their body looks.
So, which group are you in?
“Body image is not only the way we see ourselves, but also the way we feel other people see us,” said Pat Salzer, RD, wellbeing engagement consultant at Univera Healthcare. “With all the images we are bombarded with each day in advertising, media, social media, and the internet, it is understandable that people are comparing themselves to the idealistic images they see.”
Sam Carr, a content marketer at PPC Project (ppcproject.com), estimates that the average person encounters between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every day. But the images of people in those ads and posts are far from realistic. The flawless skin, perfect bodies, washboard abs, and hourglass figures are created using filters and photo editing, and the models have often had plastic surgery.
“What we see can distort our perceptions of reality, and give us unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and lower our confidence in how we look,” said Salzer.
Low self-esteem can be detrimental to all aspects of life, including interpersonal, professional, and romantic relationships. It also can lead to the development of body dysmorphia, which is when your perception of your own body is distorted and can become a preoccupation, often resulting in eating disorders.
There is a pathway to loving the way you look. “Start by taking time each day to verbally express appreciation for your body and all that it does for you,” said Salzer. “Have that self-talk each morning in the mirror as you brush your teeth or get ready for work. And keep it positive and friendly, as though you are talking to a friend — because you are!”
Additional tips to improve your body image and self-esteem.
- Post affirmations around the house where you’ll frequently see them.
- Write down negative thoughts and throw them away.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Avoid getting caught up in the celebrity culture promoted in magazines, ads, and online.
- Stop using photo filters on your selfies and instead own the real you.
“You’re at your most attractive when you exude positive energy, and are clearly comfortable in your own skin,” said Salzer. “That’s the person you want to see in the mirror, and that’s who other people want to be around.”
Peter Kates is Vice President of Communications at Univera Healthcare.