Body image is both the mental picture that you have of your body, and how you perceive yourself when you look in a mirror. Self-esteem is how you value and respect yourself as a person – it is the “real” opinion that you have of yourself. Self-esteem impacts how you take care of yourself, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Body image and self esteem also directly influence one another – if you hate your body, it’s not easy to feel good about yourself.

Girl looking in mirror

When you have a healthy body image, you feel comfortable about your body and you know how to take care of yourself. If your body is healthy, you are able to listen to what it needs. This means that you and your body are not too irritable, tired or depressed, too easily frustrated, too anxious or angry, and you have enough energy to spend time with your friends and family, participate in sports and other activities that you enjoy, and concentrate on school or work.

People with good self-esteem often have positive and confident thoughts and feelings about their body. Having a healthy body image means recognizing the individual qualities and strengths that make you feel good about yourself beyond weight, appearance, and resisting the pressure to strive for the myth of the “perfect” body that you see in advertisements and in the media. It’s important to remember that your body is unique.

Our bodies are diverse and no one body shape or size is a healthy or right one for everyone. Even if everyone ate the same food and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, no one would look the same at the end of that year. Each person’s genetics influence their bone structure, body size, shape, and weight differently. Recognize that beauty, health, and strength come in all sizes, and feel comfortable and confident in your natural body shape.

How do I know  if I have a negative body image?

  • You focus on your weight and perceived flaws in your body size and shape.
  • You feel uncomfortable and self-conscious about your body.
  • You are convinced that thinner people are happier or “better.”
  • You have a hard time seeing yourself as attractive, but not others.
  • You exercise to lose weight or to “make up” for calories that you have eaten.

Healthy body image & self esteem?

  • When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, you look at yourself as a whole person, not a collection of specific body parts.
  • You accept and celebrate the uniqueness of your natural body shape and size.
  • You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about their character and value as a person.
  • You feel comfortable and confident in your body, and refuse to spend time worrying about food, weight, and counting calories.
  • You know that real beauty is not just skin-deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you stand taller and carry yourself with a sense of confidence and self-acceptance that makes you beautiful and attractive regardless of your weight, size, or shape. Beauty is confidence and attitude, and when you feel comfortable in your body, others will feel comfortable around you.
What can I do?
  • Treat your body with respect.
  • Eat balanced meals full of a variety of appealing nutritious foods.
  • Enjoy regular, moderate exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and grow stronger, not just simply to lose weight, burn calories, and control your body fat.
  • Get enough rest – everything works better with enough sleep.
  • Resist the pressure to judge yourself and others based on weight, shape, or size.
  • Respect people based on the qualities of their character and accomplishments, not just because they appear thin, well-built, or good-looking.
  • Dress in a way that makes you feel good, that makes your own fashion statement. Most of all, dress in clothes that fit and feel comfortable.
  • Take a vote for your self-esteem and get rid of all the clothes in your closet that don’t fit. This definitely includes clothes that you can wear only when dieting.
  • Donate clothing that is too small; make room for clothes that you enjoy wearing and that feel comfortable.
  • Surround yourself with friends and family who recognize your uniqueness and like you just as you are. Avoid the people who don’t. When you’re around people and things that make you feel good, you’re less likely to base your self-esteem on how your body appears.