When you see people you find good looking or attractive in the media or on social media, do you look at yourself differently? It can be okay to want to copy the look of celebrities or influencers you admire. But judging your own body or how you look by comparing yourself to others can be unhealthy and make you feel bad about yourself.
How you feel about your body is called body image. Let’s talk more about it.
What is body image?
Body image is how you feel about your own body.
Body image can be influenced by many things. What you see or hear from family, friends, teammates, other kids at school or at work. What people say or do in the movies. People on TV or on social media or in magazines. All of these can affect how you feel about yourself and your body.
Can body image be healthy or unhealthy?
Body image can be both healthy and unhealthy.
- Some people have a healthy body image. That means they feel happy with their body and like the way it works and looks.
- Some people may have an unhealthy body image and are disappointed or feel bad about how their body works or looks.
Anyone can be at risk for body image issues. It doesn’t matter what your age, gender or sexuality is. Feelings about body image can change over time too – and for many reasons.
How can body image change over time?
Puberty can change how you feel about your body. As your body changes and you grow into an adult, your looks may change. But remember, everyone goes through this!
The amount of time you spend on social media or the group of people you hang out with are also things that can change how you feel about your body over time.
Why is it important to have healthy body image?
Learning to love and accept your body can help you have:
- High self-esteem. Appreciate your strengths and good qualities. This can help you feel good about yourself and help you reach your goals.
- Positive relationships. When you have a healthy body image, you are more likely to have positive friendships and are less likely to let other people treat you poorly.
- Better resiliency. Feeling good about your body means you may approach things with a more positive attitude. This can help you overcome challenges or get over hard situations in life more quickly.
What can happen if you have an unhealthy body image?
When people have an unhealthy body image and are too critical of themselves, they may develop:
- Low self-esteem. When people lack self-confidence, they might believe every negative thing that they think about themselves. They may choose friends and romantic partners who don’t respect or value them. And if they find themselves in abusive relationships, they’re more likely to have trouble leaving.
- Body dysmorphia. This is when you obsess over something you don’t like about your body. But what you see is usually not reality. For example, you may look in the mirror and think you are fat when you’re not. This can lead to eating disorders, depression or other health concerns.
If you ever have thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK or the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
How can you develop a healthier body image?
- Take care of your body. Eating a healthy diet and getting exercise can make you feel good about yourself. Food that you eat and activities that you do should make you feel healthy and strong.
- Follow body-positive influencers. Lots of influencers who don’t look like models or bodybuilders are spreading positive messages about body image.
- Treat yourself the way you treat your friends. If your friend said, “I look horrible,” you’d say, “No, you look great.” You wouldn’t tell your friend negative things about the way they look. You would not talk to a friend the way you may talk to yourself inside your head. So be kind to yourself.
- Spend time around people who support you. Choose your friends wisely. Hang out with people who appreciate you, who compliment you and who make you laugh.
- Seek help when you need it. Sometimes it’s hard to change your body image. Especially if you’ve felt negatively toward yourself for a long time. Talk to a parent, ally or trusted adult if you need help with your body image.