Body Acceptance

What is Body Image and What does Body Acceptance mean?

Body image develops over a lifetime and becomes an important part of who you are.  Body image is made up of:

  • How you see your body visually
  • What you feel about your body 
  • Your sense of how others see your body
  • How connected you are to your body

The combination of what you see and how you feel about your body can range from positive to negative – from body acceptance to body hate. 

Body acceptance means approving of and loving your body despite its real or perceived imperfections.  When you see your body with love and approval, you are living your life from a place of body acceptance and respect.  This can have a positive influence  in all areas of your life -  your health, your job and your relationships. 

Body acceptance allows for the fact that there is a diversity of bodies in the world and that beauty comes in many different forms.

What Factors Contribute to your Body Image?

Many things contribute to how you feel about your body: 

  • peer pressure
  • family history
  • education
  • stage of life
  • ethnic, cultural and social status

Whether body image is positive or negative can also be shaped by:

  • how you compare yourself to others
  • what you have been told about your body 
  • ideals that you develop about physical appearance
  • your exposure to images of the idealized versus normal bodies

In Western society, the media has a powerful influence on body image. Today, we are exposed to thousands of images from movies, television, magazines, the internet and music videos.   The media ties success, acceptance and happiness with looking a certain way and often these ideals are unattainable for the majority of people. 

Studies have shown that exposure to media images of the beauty ideal increases body dissatisfaction, depression and anger and lowers self-esteem in both women and men.

 How can my Body Image affect my Health?

Good mental health is an important part of your overall health. It includes how you feel about yourself and your body which can have an impact on your behavior such as what you eat, your physical activity, drug and alcohol use, your sexual activities as well as your feelings about your sexuality.

Over the last few decades, people’s unhappiness with their body has grown and studies have shown that this dissatisfaction can be a risk factor for depression, low self-esteem, sexual problems and eating disorders.  When people are fixated on what they don't like about their body and desperately try to change it, they often engage in behaviors that can lead to poor health.  These behaviors can include severe dieting, purging (over- exercising, vomiting or abuse of laxatives), use of anabolic steroids, drugs to suppress appetite or even surgery.   They may become so obsessed with their perceived flaws that it can affect their personal relationships.

What can I do  to Feel Better about my Body?

Achieving body acceptance includes:

  • the realization that your body appearance is only one part of who you are
  •  appreciating a variety of aspects of your body such as shape, function and flexibility
  •  not letting society’s concept of what is beautiful influence how you feel about your body
  •  knowing that significant others in your life appreciate your body and appearance
  •  taking care of your body by eating well and being active so that it is strong and healthy
  • Avoiding put downs about appearance and not letting others put down the one's you care about

Other Ways to Boost Your Body Image:

  • Get to know your body.  Find out where your sensitive areas are.  Learn to feel good about having sexual feelings.
  • Look at your naked body in a full-length mirror.  Ignore the imperfections and focus on areas of your body that please you.  Act as if you like your body and feel what that’s like.
  • Become a critical viewer of media messages.  When you recognize and analyze media messages that influence our society,  you can realize that the media's definitions of beauty do not define your self-image or potential.
  • Talk to children about the media's narrow definitions of beauty and acceptability. 
  • Practice self-respect and self-love; they reinforce each other. Trust that you can take good care of yourself
  • Learn to love your body.  It gives you life and even it if gives you pain, it can also bring you pleasure.
  • Make a list of your non-physical assets.  For example – your honesty, caring or sense of humour.  Realize that these characteristics are also part of your beauty.

  • Keep track of situations that cause you to be anxious about your appearance or body image.  Instead of blaming your body, explore the issues behind these feelings and work to resolve them.

  • Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.  Celebrate your achievements and move forward.

  • Be aware that focusing on your body - even in a negative way, can provide a distraction from other struggles in your life that seem too overwhelming to deal with.  By doing so, you may shut down any possibility of getting perspective and resolution in these other issues in your life.
  • Nurture your inner self. Enjoying pastimes that leave you feeling good can help you feel comfortable in your own skin.  To help manage stress or anxiety, engage in activities that are relaxing, soothing, spiritual or that allow you to connect with others. 
  • Everyone has 5,000 thoughts every hour.  Choose thoughts that encourage you rather than ones that drag you down.
  • Move and enjoy your body- not because you have to but because it makes you feel energized, strong and peaceful.
  • Always have safer sex.  This means protecting yourself by knowing what you want and don’t want.  This means using a condom to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
  • Allow yourself to have sexual fantasies.  Just because you fantasize about something doesn’t mean you are going to try it.
  • Tell your partner what you want and what feels good.  Your partner is not a mind reader.
  • Participate only in sexual acts that you feel comfortable doing.  Give yourself permission to enjoy what you choose to do.
  • Expect respect from your sexual partner.  Give them the respect they deserve.