By Carol Fredrek

Do you measure your self-esteem by how you look or find yourself preoccupied with your weight, letting the numbers on the scale define who you are? Do your relationship to food and your body interfere with your life or prevent you from enjoying everyday activities?

Body image and weight obsession in our culture is rampant. According to the article “11 Facts About Body Image” 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape.

Body image exists on many levels:
1. Visual – how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind.
2. Mental – what you believe about your appearance.
3. Emotional – how you feel about your body, including your height, shape and weight.
4. Kinesthetic – how you sense and control your body as you move.
5. Historical – a lifetime of experience including pleasure and pain, praise and criticism.

Your body image is always changing as your body changes with age or illness, hunger or fatigue. Your feelings, attitudes and values are so easily shifted by external factors. A slight comment by someone such as “You look great today. Have you lost weight?” or “Perhaps those black pants would be more slimming” can alter your body image. Stepping on the scale in the morning can determine how you feel about yourself for the day.

Negative Body Image: Body Loathing
• You have a distorted perception of your shape.
• You are convinced that only other people are attractive and that your body size or shape is a sign of personal failure.
• There is a feeling of preoccupation and dissatisfaction with your appearance.
• You feel ashamed, self-conscious, and anxious about your body.

Positive Body Image: Body Love
• You have a clear, true perception of your shape.
• You experience a mixture of emotions, attitudes and actions that let you enjoy the way your body looks and the way it feels.
• You celebrate and appreciate your natural body shape.
• You feel proud and accepting of your unique body and refuse to spend an unreasonable amount of time worrying about food, weight and calories.
• You feel comfortable and confident in your body.

Body Loathing to Body Love
First it is important to understand the relationship between body image and self-esteem. Poor body image has very little to do with how you actually look. Studies have shown that there is very little connection between a woman’s actual physical attractiveness (as rated by others) and her satisfaction with body image. In addition, there is little connection between physical attractiveness and feelings of self-worth.

A self-esteem survey was given to both attractive and unattractive people and their
scores were very similar; however, there is a strong relationship between body image and self-esteem. What this means is that despite appearance, people who view their bodies positively also tend to have higher self-esteem. On the contrary, those who see their bodies negatively are apt to have lower self-esteem. (Freedman, R. 1988)

Body Love is not about making a perfect body but rather about being in this world contentedly in an imperfect one.

If you are struggling with your body image call me at (403)249-9337 for a FREE 15 MINUTE PHONE CONSUlTATION or SCHEDULE A COUNSELING SESSION.  

Carol Fredrek, MA, R. Psych. is a Registered Psychologist that has worked in the areas of women’s issues, disordered eating and body image for over two decades.