In today’s age, with the relentless media portrayals of what it means to be attractive and fashionable, an increasing number of people are struggling with concerns around their body image. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are becoming increasingly common among teenagers. Others are struggling with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
What is important to keep in mind is that body image is not the same as your physical appearance; rather, it is your perception and your attitude regarding your physical appearance. The answer, therefore, lies in changing not your appearance, but rather your attitude towards yourself. The key is then to maintain a positive mindset, accept yourself, prioritise your health, look at the bigger picture, and be comfortable with who you are.
1 Identify unrealistic expectations : We’re all born with a certain body type – understand the things that you can and cannot change about yourself. Identify and modify the unrealistic and perfectionist expectations that you have, and make sure that you don’t compromise with your health in order to fulfil them.
2 Question media messages: The media constantly bombards us with images of what is attractive and what is trending – be it size zero models, ripped abs or the fashion statements they make. Question the media’s messages and what it’s promoting, rather than blindly accepting the trends.
3 Become aware of your comparisons: You may often not even realise when you start drawing comparisons between yourself and others. Judge yourself on your own merit; don’t compare yourself with others
4 Don’t let self-esteem be affected by appearance: Don’t let your appearance define who you are. Your appearance is only one part of your entire personality. Your self-appraisal needs to be holistic and realistic, rather than focusing only on one aspect of yourself.
5 Focus on health rather than appearance: Exercising and eating healthy are important for each and every one of us, not just for people who want to lose weight. Focus on working out and eating right to stay fit and feel good about yourself, rather than to lose weight or inches.
6 Identify your stereotypes: People tend to label and categorise others based on some loosely held associations and generalisations. It’s important for you to be able to identify your own stereotypes and introspect on the meanings you assign to various aspects of people’s appearance.
7 Find your own comfort zone: There’s no one single perfect way of being. Don’t let messages from the media, society or your family determine how you should or should not look. Find your own comfort zone.
The author is director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcare