No one understands body image better than Turning Point Psychology’s registered psychologist, Lorraine Aldridge. She is the first person to tell you that how we see ourselves is important to our mental fitness and wellbeing. But what is body image?

What is body image?

“A person’s body image is their thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs about physical appearance. It includes how we think we look- our shape, size, and weight- and how our body functions,” says Lorraine. “Having a healthy relationship with our bodies and appearances is one of the most significant relationships in our lives.”

Body image seriously impacts our mental health, especially when we view ourselves negatively. Low self-esteem, depression, excessive dieting, and eating disorders are all associated with body dissatisfaction.

How we perceive our bodies

“We often put immense pressure on ourselves to have a ‘perfect’ body,” says Lorraine. “This is often due to childhood conditioning, societal standards or messages from media outlets that portray certain types of bodies as ideal.”

Lorraine explains that when people feel they are not living up to bodily expectations, they often experience feelings of shame or guilt. And to cope with these emotions, some individuals turn to food, alcohol, sex, drugs or excessive exercise for comfort or distraction from their negative body-image thoughts. 

How we perceive our bodies

6 body image boosting tips

The good news is that when it comes to developing a positive relationship with your body image, there are several things you can do. Lorraine suggests the following strategies:

Practise self-compassion

1. Practise self-compassion

Try talking to yourself like you would talk to someone struggling with similar issues. Instead of being hard on yourself for not meeting society’s highly stylised and flawless images of fitness and beauty, show kindness.

“Showing yourself the same kindness and understanding that you’d show someone else in your situation is a great first step toward changing your self-perception,” says Lorraine.

Taking time out from social media

2. Taking time out from social media

Focus on activities that bring you joy outside of comparing yourself to others. Turn off notifications from social media and be mindful of whom you follow on these platforms.

“Toxic body, diet, and appearance talk destroy body confidence,” says Lorraine. “So,

shut toxic body talk down by saying, ‘That’s enough’ or ‘Can we talk about something else?'”

Re-focusing your thoughts

3. Re-focusing your thoughts

When negative body image thoughts come up, replace them with more positive ones. Make a list of all the things you appreciate about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance.

“My favourites are, ‘I am enough’, ‘My body is great the way it is’, ‘I am more than my body,'” says Lorraine.

Value yourself as a whole person

4. Value yourself as a whole person

Rather than believing there’s something wrong with you, focus on accepting that each person is unique and different; everyone has their quirks, strengths, and vulnerabilities. Nurture the things that make you, you.

“No one feels great about their body all the time,” says Lorraine. “When poor body image thoughts occur, resist responding to them with unhelpful behaviours.”

Move and nourish your body in feel-good ways

5. Move and nourish your body in feel-good ways

Physical activity and nourishing your body with healthy food are essential for overall wellbeing. Choose movement that you enjoy and make healthy food choices.

“It’s also essential to be mindful of how we nourish our bodies,” says Lorraine. “Don’t restrict your diet to reach a certain size or shape; rather, strive for balance.”

Get professional help

6. Get professional help

If you’re struggling to improve your body image, it’s often helpful to seek help from a mental health professional.

“It’s important to remember that it takes time and effort to build a positive body image,” says Lorraine. “It’s not something you build overnight. But with the right help, you can feel better about yourself and begin forming a healthy relationship with your body.” 

Conclusion

Overall, developing a positive body image is key to maintaining good mental health. Yet, it takes time to change how we perceive ourselves. Practising self-compassion and making conscious choices away from online or offline comparison culture is a great first step. Gaining awareness of our thoughts around body image also helps. Understanding how our thoughts affect us is vital for building a better relationship with ourselves and, ultimately, becoming happier.

Want to know more?

Read about Lorraine’s personal body image journey on our Love Your Body Image page.