Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How Your Distorted Body Image Could Be Harming You

Do you ever have thoughts like these?
My life would be better if I looked better.
I will never look as good as _____________.
My _________ is/are so ugly.
I am so fat.
The scale can’t be right.
I look disgusting; no one could ever love me.

If you do, you’re not alone. In a seminal study of body image statistics from the 1990s, author and psychology professor Linda Smolek found that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Unfortunately, not much has changed since then. And women aren’t the only ones with negative body images; numerous recent studies show that men are becoming increasingly afflicted as well.

Body image is not just a problem of being unhappy with what we see in the mirror, but also that our perception of what we see is skewed and we have distorted body image. For example, a University of Colorado study showed that the same women who overestimate the size of their waists by 25 percent were still able to correctly estimate the width of a box.

We also have unrealistic expectations of what we should be seeing in the mirror, thanks to the media’s portrayal of “ideal” body types and other physical features. 521872_476850412373536_1325508873_n

A Three-Legged Stool

So, body image is really a three-legged stool that wobbles (and sometimes knocks you right over) when you:

• Feel dissatisfied or unhappy about what you look like.

• Have a skewed perception of what you actually do look like.

• Have unrealistic expectations about what you should look like.

As you can imagine, the more wobbly your stool, the more deeply these negative body image issues are going to permeate your life. In extreme cases, negative body image can lead to eating disorders, depression, substance abuse and other serious problems.

Even when it doesn’t seem to be having an impact on your day-to-day life, when you take a closer look, you may find that your body image is an underlying cause of issues in virtually every area of your life.

What you CAN do

Personal relationships. When you’re preoccupied with distorted body image, you may sacrifice quality time with friends and loved ones. For instance, you refuse to go shopping because nothing will fit or you hate the process and make everyone miserable. Or you will not go to the beach or pool because you don’t want to be seen in a bathing suit.

Romantic relationships. When you’re feeling bad about the way you look, you might create distance between you and your mate (e.g., you say no to intimacy) or a potential mate (e.g., you don’t talk to new people).

Workplace success. Confidence is attractive in the workplace, as well. Even though your physical appearance has nothing to do with your job performance, your level of self-esteem does.

Self-care, health and wellness. If you’re not feeling good about yourself, you may not be motivated to take good care of yourself.

Finances. How much money are you spending on the pursuit of a better body? Could that money be better spent?

Spiritual. When you’re focused only on your appearance, you’ll have little time, money or energy to cultivate a spiritual life, helping others and contributing to the greater good.

Home. You may reflect your negative body image in your outer environment by letting
Clutter build up or neglecting house repairs or cleaning.

3 Ways of Increasing Self Esteem and to Love Yourself Again

1. Decide right this moment that you will spend a minimum of 30 minutes daily on some type of self-care regime. This could look like doing a mirror exercise where you speak loving affirmations to yourself and acknowledge what you like about yourself rather than the negative habitual conversation you have had. You can appreciate your body for what it does and yourself for qualities, skills and traits you love. With some practice and consistency, this will fill you up in ways that a “perfect 10” body never will.

2. Aim for a body size that is healthy for your height and shape and not a distorted body image. We can appreciate our 20 something weight, however, setting ourselves to look like 20 years old again often sets us back.

3. Focus on creating a healthy body, and let your weight take care of itself. Try limiting the frequency that you step on the scale. By acknowledging the impact of body image on the rest of your life, you can refocus your lens and keep a healthy view of what you see.

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It is my experience that many women want to lose weight and few want to look a bit deeper at their body image and how they feel about themselves.

As far as I am concerned, Healthy Body Image is the foundation for weight loss and not the other way around.

You must like and love yourself – who you are see in the mirror, not just on the outside but on the inside too – before you can lose the weight for good.

If you are at war with yourself and your body, how do you expect to feel good inside and out?

This inquiring mind wants to know. Please share or ask me anything. GO.

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