Maintaining a Positive Body Image


Piper Eggener, Staff Writer

As the holidays approach, people tend to think of the excitement that stems from seeing extended family, feeling grateful for the overlooked aspects of life, watching football, and enjoying a lavish meal together. However, for others, Thanksgiving and Christmas can be an especially difficult time in terms of mental health. The correlation between the holidays and body image is a struggle that many people face, which can lead to not only negative feelings of self-worth but also unhealthy eating patterns. Thankfully, there is a variety of simple practices out there that aid in the development of a positive body image, which is beneficial for everyone, even those who do not find these holidays particularly troubling.

Everyone has a body image. In other words, we each possess our own individual perception of our body’s physical appearance, often triggering a myriad of feelings in relation to that image. A negative body image is formed from the dissatisfaction or shame that can come from this perception. This can happen for several reasons including experiences, culture/ beliefs, the media, etc. (MedicalNewsToday). In the society we live in today, the pressure to look a certain way can be overwhelming, especially for adolescents who are constantly exposed to unhealthily obtained physiques, unrealistic beauty standards, “beauty” filters, and photoshopped pictures that flood social media sites.

With the growing consumption of such negative content, the prevalence of body dysmorphia, disordered eating patterns, and the desire to alter aspects of one’s appearance that they may deem as “flawed” has become more common. In fact, the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital conducted a national poll in September 2022 to measure parent’s perceptions of their child’s body image. In the study, approximately 64% of parents of children 8-18 years of age stated that they find their child to be self-conscious about their appearance. The study also included a breakdown of which aspects the parents believed their children to be most insecure of, including acne, weight, hair, teeth, height, physical features, etc.

If these negative feelings are so common, how can one work on creating a more positive body image for themselves? A positive body image takes work and patience, but it is worthwhile. For instance, having a positive body image is associated with good mental/ physical health, higher self-esteem, and more confidence in daily activities (MedicalNewsToday). It may not be easy, but by implementing these practices into your life, not only will reaching a positive body image be possible but maintaining one will become easier as well.

Affirm yourself regularly– The way you talk to yourself is important. In order to create and maintain a positive body image, you must first address the way you speak to yourself. It’s okay to have negative thoughts, that’s natural. However, by acknowledging when you are having bad body image days or are comparing yourselves to others, you can practice changing these feelings into positive ones. Having a list of affirmations is extremely helpful in these situations. There is a variety of ways to implement affirmations into your life, so do whatever you are most comfortable with. Some people have a list that they speak out loud every morning in the mirror. This can look like “I am beautiful. I am smart. I am confident…” Another approach is to recognize when you are having negative thoughts about yourself and combat them with affirmations instead. Changing these thoughts into positive affirmations every time you have them will help decrease the potential for having negative ones in the future. Lastly, you can keep a small jar of hand-written affirmations. Whenever you start doubting your worth, you can take a slip from the jar and repeat it to yourself to help boost your confidence.

Appreciate your body– Our bodies allow us to do and experience all the amazing joys life has to offer. Laughing, singing, moving, exercising; there are so many simple abilities that we often take for granted. If you ever find yourself having negative thoughts towards your body, remind yourself that your wonderful body is what enables you to do these things. It may seem silly but appreciating these gifts can really help change the way you perceive your body and reduce any negative self-talk.

Keep a positive environment– You control your environment. Unknowingly, you are surrounding yourself with people, social media feed, etc. that may be influencing your body image. Interestingly, keeping your environment positive includes being critical. Do you surround yourself with people who constantly talk down to themselves or to you? Does your social media feed make you self-conscious? Do you follow accounts that praise diet culture or unrealistic beauty standards? If the answer is yes, you need to be more critical. The people you spend time with, whether they’re friends or family, should uplift you, not tear you apart. Engage with people who remind you of your worth, not diminish it. This goes both ways; you should remind them of their worth as well. Social media plays a huge role in maintaining a positive environment too. Block or unfollow accounts that you find triggering or make you question your self worth. On TikTok especially, sometimes the trends or filters can be overwhelming, so if you find it to be damaging to your self-esteem, take control. Press “uninterested”. Unfollow. Block. Don’t allow yourself to be surrounded by such negativity.

Avoid perfectionism– The beauty standard set for all genders changes rapidly. It’s impossible to live up to these unrealistic expectations of what we should or shouldn’t look like. Therefore, it’s important to redefine what “perfect” is to you. There is so much beauty within you, even if you refuse to see it. You do not need to continuously attempt to alter your appearance to fit into what society deems as “good enough”. You are already good enough. Let your confidence shine as you realize the perfections you already possess.

Remind yourself of your value regularly– You are more beautiful and stronger than you believe, inside and out. Having confidence and a good self-esteem is not a bad thing. It’s not conceited or arrogant to be aware of your value. So, wear clothes that make you feel good. Don’t allow your mind to spiral, convincing you that others will think less of you for what you believe to be “flaws”. To maintain a positive body image, you must remind yourself of your worth regularly and not allow your negative thoughts to control you. You are worth so much more than you realize. Remember that and let your confidence radiate in everything you do.

Remember that food is fuel– It’s hard not to get lost in thoughts about food, especially if you have a negative body image. However, overall, you must remember that food is fuel. Food is what gives you the power to get through the day and the energy to make memories that will last a lifetime. Food is not only meant to aid in your physical health; it is meant to satisfy you mentally as well. Often, people become consumed in attempting to keep up with diet culture, thinking they need to force certain foods in or out of their diet. The truth is, no food is solely “good” or “bad”. Labeling food this way can cause serious damage to both your physical and mental health. Enjoy the foods that make you feel good and try your hardest to not become tangled in any thoughts surrounding them.

In sum, having a positive body image does not mean that you believe you are perfect all the time. It’s human to have doubts or insecurities. “Instead, positive body image means accepting your body for what it is, celebrating your natural shape and size, and how your body performs” (SkillsYouNeed). People with a positive body image understand that appearance is not the most important thing. It doesn’t determine one’s character or personality. Creating this type of relationship with your body where you celebrate it instead of criticizing it can change your life. I hope you found these tips to be helpful if you ever find yourself struggling. This holiday season, find peace and comfort within your environment. Enjoy yourself. Remember your worth. And have a happy holiday!