In a world where appearances make the first impression, and judgements are instantly formed, being secure in the way we look can feel like an impossible task. In the psychology world, terms like self-esteem and body image are sewn into every sentence, and it can be hard to seperate the two. ...In a world where appearances make the first impression, and judgements are instantly formed, being secure in the way we look can feel like an impossible task. In the psychology world, terms like self-esteem and body image are sewn into every sentence, and it can be hard to seperate the two. The concept of body image, while linked directly to self-esteem, is a characteristic in its own right. So what do we mean by 'body image', and do you have it? Lets look at what body image is, how it might negatively impact your self-esteem, and what you can do about it.

Body image is how you see yourself when staring into a mirror. Its what you believe about the way you look. Its the feelings you have about your body and its shape and size. Its how you feel IN your body, not just about your body. On any given day, you conduct 'body checks'. Do you recognize them? Its the judgements we cast in our mind that determine if today is a good hair day or not, if we are feeling 'fat' and 'bloated', or if we notice that skin under our arms shaking more than we recall it used to.

Every glance in a mirror or reflective store window has us placing judgements on ourselves. Sometimes its positive, in the form of, "damn! you look good today!" Othertimes, we pinch a roll of skin around our waistline and fantasize about a tummy tuck. The messages we give ourselves about the way we look directly impacts our self-esteem, or how we feel about ourselves. The difficult part is that most of the messages we tell ourselves are harsh and distorted, and no matter how many times your spouse tells you that you are beautiful, its never as convincing as our own inner voices that contradict their every compliment.

After years of hearing our own negative self-talk, our mind forms assumptions and takes the body image one step further. The message we then hear is that we are bad, not worthy of love, and inadequate. It leads to problems in other areas of our lives, including careers, relationships, and sexuality. Its no wonder, then, that people with poor body image and self esteem tend to struggle with feelings of depression, have eating disorders, and become obsessed with dieting strategies and weight loss.

So what can you do about it? First, be aware of the thoughts you choose to create. Look in the mirror with thoughts of accepting your natural shape rather than criticizing it. Easier said then done? True. But ultimately you are the only one who can change the way you feel about yourself. It is said that it takes 7 positive statements to erase every 1 negative statement about ourselves. If thats the case, you have a lot of catching up to do!

Second, tune into your body. What does it say to you? Often times, the dialogue between ourselves is one-way. Give your body a chance to talk back. What do you think it would say to you if it had a voice? Try this exercise: Write a letter to your body. It will most likely turn out to be harsh and critical. Now write a letter to you from your body. Does your body feel loved, nurtured, appreciated? If not, its easy to see the impact this might have on your life.

Thirdly, ask yourself what benefit you are deriving from being so critical? Does it make it easier or harder to get up in the morning? Does it get you sympathy from loved ones or frustrations? Does it allow you to not have to take responsibility for your relationships or social status? If there is no benefit from the negative self-talk, its time to investigate why you continue to do it. Start looking at the assumptions you make about yourself, and how they manifest in perfectionism, daily rituals, and judgements of others. It might be time to do a status check and create a life shift.

These can be challenging tasks that I've suggested, and its just a start. Sometimes seeking the help of a Licensed Mental Health counselor can be beneficial with processing how to create change. The first step is always awareness, and if you've read this article from the top, then I'll assume that some personal insight is already developing. What will be YOUR next step?

Author's Bio: 

Tammy Greene has been working in the field of mental health since graduating with her first degree in 1998. After achieving her Masters degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, she fulfilled the Massachusetts state requirements and was awarded the title of Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Tammy is trained in a wide variety of theoretical backgrounds, and utilizes whichever is most helpful to the client. She enjoys challenging her clients through identifying cognitions and how thoughts create emotions.

She has a wide range of experiences that include having worked at methodone clinics, eating disorder units at both the inpatient hospitalized and outpatient clinic settings, residential programs for troubled teens, lock-down facilities for juvenile offenders, summer camp adjustment counselor, middle/high school therapist, outpatient community clinics, and community outreach programs.

In addition, Tammy has sought out further trainings by becoming a EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) level II trained clinician, which is especially effective in treating those diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety disorders, and Panic Disorders.

She continues to remain active in the field by participating in regular trainings to maintain her state license. She also stays in touch with the community needs by continuing to work at a local hospital while investing in and growing her own individual private practice.