Today we are going to talk about body image, which is the mental representation that each individual has of his or her own body.
The long-awaited summer has finally arrived … it’s time to go to the pool, the beach and, of course, put on your bikini, swimsuit, etc. … when we have the most exposed body, we realize that there are many aspects of our body that we would like to change. It turns out that we seem to have too much of this, not enough of that, we look horrible, we think no one will notice us, we also compare ourselves with other people we consider “better” physically, and of course, we feel bad.
What is body image?
Today, we are going to talk about body image, which is the mental representation that each individual has of his or her own body. We make this mental representation based on:
- The measures we attribute to our body.
- The thoughts, feelings that our body provokes in us, mainly body size, weight, and certain parts of the body that we like more or less on ourselves or any other aspect of physical appearance.
- The consequences of the above (measurements, thoughts, feelings), i.e. because of the way I perceive my body and how I feel about it, I do things like putting on larger clothes, weighing myself regularly to see if I’ve lost those extra pounds, wearing black because it stylizes, avoiding going to the beach to avoid putting on a bikini, not wearing sandals because I don’t like my feet, styling my hair in a certain way because that way I see my face thinner, constantly comparing myself with others, etc.).
Negative body image
- We have a negative body image when:
- We misjudge body shapes and see body parts as they are not;
- We are convinced that only other people are attractive and we value these measurements as a success and a personal value;
- We feel shame and anxiety about the body;
- We feel uncomfortable and weird in our own bodies. We do not accept ourselves. We feel alienated.
12 most common distorted thoughts about our appearance
Cash and Brown (1987) collected the most often distorted thoughts about appearance:
- Beauty or beast: thinking all or nothing, in black or white. I realize I have a pimple on my nose and I think “I’m horrible”, “I’m disgusting”.
- The unreal ideal: I test myself based on an unreal standard (for example, a sculpted woman), in this way my faults come out in their entire splendor: “I am too small…”
- Unfair comparison: we compare ourselves to real, very attractive people: “I don’t enjoy trying on clothes in department stores because seeing the saleswomen makes me feel fat and ugly.”
- The magnifying glass: we focus on one or more aspects of our appearance that we don’t like and exaggerate its importance. It’s selective attention.
- The blind mind: favorable aspects of our body are ignored or minimized; because we feel good about those sides of us, we ignore them, but focus on others we like less. Very much related to the way we are educated to be modest.
- Radiant ugliness: Dissatisfaction with one aspect of appearance is generalized to other physical characteristics. For example, I see wrinkles under my eyes and I see signs of aging in other parts of my body.
- The blame game: this is very important, especially for young women and teenage girls. It involves attributing disappointments, rejections, or negative events to an aspect of your appearance that you are not satisfied with: “you have no interest in me because of my appearance”.
- Misinterpretation of the mind: Since I assume or think that I am unattractive (or have a defect), I also assume that others see me that way. I imagine what people think and what they look at.
- Predicting misfortune: Expecting a bad physical appearance to have negative effects. For example, an obese man thinks “with my looks, no one will take me seriously as a salesman” or a bald man thinks “without my hair, no woman will fall in love with me”.
- Limiting beauty: not being able to do things for an appearance. The prohibition of our behavior is motivated by the negative reactions we think people will have. A woman with wrinkles thinks “I can’t go out without makeup”, another person thinks “I can’t go to the party with my hair in this state”.
- Feeling ugly: Since I feel ugly, I must be ugly. The interpretation becomes a certainty and we justify the “ugliness”: “I feel really ugly, look how horrible I am”.
- Reflecting bad mood: Sometimes bad moods motivated by other reasons end up being reflected in our appearance. For example, a person who is very stressed at work ends up criticizing their body by trying on clothes.
No one can think of themselves as an awfully ugly and despicable person and be comfortable with them. All of us, at one time (or more), have fallen into one or more of these errors and, as a result, have felt dissatisfied with our image.
A fundamental step to improving self-esteem and feeling better is to recognize these types of distorted thoughts (which are automatically generated) so we can refute them whenever our mind thinks this way. Faced with aim confrontation, they will gradually disappear and we will automate a more adequate way of thinking.
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