Issues with body image typically begin in childhood.
Children and young adults learn that there are unwritten rules about body image, as society creates evaluations of how one should look. The problem with this is we are not creating our body images based on internal evaluations. We look at how others perceive us and what society dictates as acceptable and less on how we feel about ourselves. These views can be carried into adulthood. Below are 10 reasons this can happen.
1. The media. The media plays a role in how we see ourselves. Most everyone that appears on television or in the movies matches an ideal of body image. Impressionable children can view these people and think that is how they should look, because that look is celebrated. Adults can also share this impression and try to look like celebrities, not realizing the extreme measures celebrities often take to maintain their “beauty”.
2. Parental influence. Children learn from their parents. If a parent has an issue with their body image, they may teach their children similar thinking habits. This includes eating specific foods, engaging in excessive exercise regimens, or getting cosmetic surgeries.
3. Peer pressure. Adolescents have a desire to fit in and sometimes peer pressure can influence issues with body image. If your friends think that Starbucks is a food group and helps to not overeat, you might develop similar behavior in order to fit in.
4. Teasing. Friends and family members may tease a child or young adult about their weight or physical appearance. If this happens, the young person may begin to feel there is something wrong with them. If a young person is teased for being overweight, they might develop a negative body image and either continue gaining weight or experience other body image issues.
5. Lack of self-esteem. If a person lacks self-esteem, they can develop body image issues. Self-esteem defines how you feel about yourself and the respect you have for who you are. Self-esteem also guides how you take care of yourself physically. Low self-esteem can create a focus on what is wrong with your body instead of what is right. People with low self-esteem emphasize faults in physical appearance and place too high a value on what they see in the mirror. A person may not feel worthy of having a healthy body or lack the confidence they need to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
6. Internalizing emotions. If emotions are not properly dealt with, a person may resort to food for comfort. This can create and reinforce a negative body image through being overweight and eating in a way that does not promote confidence.
7. Control. Body image issues can start when someone feels like they have no control in their lives. We all need to feel some control over our lives but if a person feels they have no control, they might start overeating or undereating. This can reinforce body image issues.
8. Distorted self-view. If you look at the mirror and focus on imperfections, you can develop body image issues. You may see things that others do not, which are either real or not real. You may be overly critical of your shape or how you look in general. Obsession over perceived flaws can lead to body dysmorphic disorder.
9. Unrealistic expectations. If you have unrealistic expectations about yourself, you can develop body image issues. If you expect your body to be a certain way and your physical body is not able to live up to that, you could develop body image issues.
10. Fear. Experiencing fear or anxiety about how one looks and how one is perceived by others, can create body image issues. Chronically worrying about acceptance from others creates a constant fear of imperfection.
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