Body image issues involve feeling unsatisfied with your physical appearance. While everyone’s path to body positivity is unique, there are many ways to improve negative feelings and gain more confidence.
A negative self-image (aka body image issues) means a person feels like their body isn’t good enough. But obvi, that definition is pretty basic. Symptoms can range from being a bit bummed about your bod to feeling totally overwhelmed by self-doubt.
Here’s a deeper dive into what it really means to have body insecurity. We also have a rundown of the best ways to cope, possible causes, and symptoms to look out for.
Body insecurity symptoms can vary a lot from person to person. But there are some typical ones to look out for. You might have body image issues if you:
- feel unworthy or unattractive
- are never satisfied with your appearance
- have unrealistic beauty standards or goals
- prioritize your appearance over your health
- determine your self-worth by your physical appearance
- go to extreme measures to hit a certain body weight or clothing size
- think you’d be happier or more fulfilled if you had a lower body weight
- spend an excessive amount of time and energy trying to “improve” your appearance
Chances are you won’t be able to solve your body image issues overnight. For most people, it takes a lot of time, effort, and self-care. Here are five tips to help you on your journey.
1. Spend less time on social media
Influencers aren’t the only ones who push unrealistic beauty standards.
Studies show media as a whole can influence a person’s perception of what a typical, healthy body should look like. It’s also super easy to compare yourself to the random everyday people you see during a doomscrolling sesh.
Try to take a break from social media. And remember, most of what you see on social media is an idealized version of a person’s life. It’s not reality.
2. Block the haters
Anyone who is making you feel badly about yourself does not deserve to have you in their life. So try to cut out the people who trigger your body image issues. Of course, this is easier said than done.
You can’t always avoid toxic people, especially if they’re part of your social circle. It can also be hella hard to stand up to certain family members or co-workers. If that’s the case, there are still constructive ways to deal with them.
Here are some tips:
- Set boundaries. Be clear and concise. Let the person know that you have limits and won’t tolerate being treated poorly.
- Plan your responses ahead of time. This can help you stay calm and might reduce your risk of being triggered in the moment.
- Have a heart-to-heart. The people who make you feel badly may not know the damage they’re causing. Let them know how their actions make you feel. Maybe they’ll apologize and change their ways. But if not, at least you know you tried.
- Block or mute them on social media. This limits their ability to contact you or see what you’re up to.
3. Try therapy
If therapy is an option for you, you might consider trying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been shown to improve the symptoms of negative body image.
CBT can help you identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. It can also help you get to the root of your feelings, and that can be very healing.
4. Try medication
Ain’t no shame in the meds game! According to research from 2008, some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (aka SSRIs) may be prescribed to treat body image issues.
But keep in mind that meds aren’t for everyone. You should have an honest chat with a healthcare professional about your symptoms. They can let you know which medications or other treatments will work best for your unique needs.
5. Get regular physical activity
Working out helps your body and mind in lots of wonderful ways.
A regular workout routine can improve self-esteem, and cardio can help pump up the volume on endorphin production, which can boost your mood.
In fact, a 2019 research review found that aerobic exercise can have an antidepressant effect.
Again, body images issues aren’t a one-size-fits-all situation. But there are some common components that can play a part.
Negative body image can be triggered by:
- having a notably high or low body weight for your height
- having been bullied or teased for how you looked as a kid
- being told that you’re unattractive, ugly, too thin, or too fat or experiencing criticism of other physical attributes
- seeing messages in the media (including social media) that make you feel badly about your appearance
Negative body image can also be a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This is a mental health condition that involves being overly focused on perceived flaws in your appearance. It typically happens in adolescence but can def affect adults too.
Anyone can experience a negative self-image at any point in their life.
However, it might be more common in those who identify as LGBTQIA+. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, some people in LGBTQ+ communities are at a greater risk of disordered eating and negative body image.
Additionally, some research suggests that those who are assigned male at birth are socially conditioned to cope with body insecurity better than those who are assigned female at birth. But we need a lot more research to understand this.
Yep. Having a negative body image is associated with various other health concerns. Studies show those who have a poor self-image might be at an increased risk of:
- mood disorders
- sexual dysfunction
- muscle dysmorphia
- self-harm tendencies
- body dysmorphic disorder
- eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder
- behaviors that may have harmful effects, such as smoking, alcohol use, indoor tanning, and disordered eating
Body image issues are very common and extremely complex. They can stem from childhood trauma, unrealistic beauty standards, and personal views of what an attractive body should look like.
While body insecurity can affect each person differently, there are some common signs, such as feeling unworthy, unsatisfied, or unfulfilled because of the way you look.
Some folks may also take extreme measures to hit a certain body weight or spend an excessive amount of time worrying about their appearance.
Developing a better body image tends to take a lot of self-care. Here are some tips that may help:
- Try to spend less time on social media.
- Cut off communication with people who are making you feel badly about your body.
- Try therapy, if it’s an option for you.
- Talk with a healthcare pro about medications that may help you manage.
- Get regular physical activity.
And remember, you’re absolutely beautiful just the way you are ❤️.