Body image and self esteem during teenage years
How to help your teenager love his/her body?
Let’s talk about the relationship we have with our bodies. I don’t know if it’s your case, but sometimes this relationship can be chaotic, or even downright negative. Sometimes this relationship even makes us totally unhappy. We can suffer from negative self-talk without realizing where it comes from.
Is your attitude towards your body good or bad? You like it or wish to be in someone else’s shoes?
What is body image?
Body image is the perception that one has of one’s body. Thoughts, feelings and attitudes that we feel when thinking about our body (and other people’s body). Your body, do you like it? Do you hate it? Does it make you anxious? Does it influence your relationship with food? Do you think about it often?
Depending on your answer, it can affect many areas of your life. For example, if your body makes you anxious because it doesn’t please you, you may tend to isolate yourself to avoid others’ people eyes. It could be that eating stresses you for fear of gaining weight, and that it undermines all pleasure to taste, to eat and to share a good meal with your family!
It may also be more subtle. Sometimes we are not even aware that we have an opinion. We all have an inner voice. We think that our opinion of our body is actually the Truth. You know, “I find myself ugly because I am ugly, it’s obvious! No one will ever want to be my friend. No want will ever want to date me!”. All of these attitudes and inner talks come from your body image.
Today, what is your perception of your body? Any different than yesterday’s perception?
What is a healthy body image and a disturbed body image?
This definition can help you to position yourself, and to become aware of your own relationship with your body. Keep in mind that not everything is black and white. It may be that you are somewhere between these two states.
Healthy body image:
- A clear and true perception of your body and your appearance. You see the different parts of your body as they really are, neither more nor less.
- You celebrate and appreciate the unique shape of your body. You are happy to be different (to be you!).
- You understand that a person’s physical appearance says very little about his character and value as a person.
- You feel satisfied and you accept your body, you refuse to spend too much time worrying about your appearance and your weight.
- You are comfortable and confident in your body. You use it to move, feel, love, etc., in a natural and spontaneous way.
- You take care of yourself no matter what shape is your body.
Disturbed body image:
- You have a distorted perception of your body and your appearance. You perceive parts of your body different from what they really are.
- You only see the parts of your body that you don’t like. You cannot imagine being happy with that body.
- You are convinced that only other people are attractive. You believe that the size, weight or shape of your body is a sign of personal failure.
- You feel ashamed, embarrassed and anxious about your body.
- You feel uncomfortable in your body.
How do you feel about these definitions?
The fact that you find yourself ugly (or beautiful) is only a perception, an opinion.
A perception is probably very realistic in our eyes (after all, that’s the definition of a perception: the way you think and interpret something), but very questionable in the absolute! The reality is not so simple and it’s a very good news! Reality changes according to everyone’s perceptions.
Our own perception of our appearance can change on a daily basis. Realizing that your body image is a matter of perception and not The Truth gives you power. Because perceptions change, and evolve.
Our perception of our body is an opinion that changes. It is not The Truth.
Your good qualities don’t depend on what you think you look like
That’s the best news! We can always be funny, brilliant, creative, kind, strong, determined, open-minded, helpful, generous, accomplished, empathic, assertive … You get it!
It’s true! Think of someone you esteem (your parents, a teacher, a friend, etc.) and ask yourself: does my esteem for this person is lower when she gets up in the morning, wearing a not-so-fancy PJs and messy hair (and morning breath!)? I am convinced that the answer is no. It’s the same for you. Your appearance doesn’t add or subtract anything to your value as a person.
Being beautiful (by the industry’s standards) is not necessary to be a happy and worthy human! Being unique is the way to go!
My body image is disturbed, what can I do?
First, if you feel your body image is disrupted, it makes you unhappy, and you feel it’s taking too much of your time and energy, I strongly urge you to talk to someone about it (someone you trust or talk to a health professional – It could be a doctor, a registered dietitian, a psychologist or a nurse). It’s important to be honest with yourself about this. I would not want you to stay alone with your thoughts if they make you unhappy. That being said, I have 2 ideas to improve your perception of yourself.
1.Make a list of your social and intellectual qualities you love about yourself. You can also ask those who love you to give you their opinion on your strengths. Add your successes and what you discover about yourself over time. Keep it safely and read it often!
2. Make another list of what your body, as it is, allows you to accomplish that you find pleasant and satisfying. For example, practicing a sport, hugging a loved one, petting a cat, rocking a baby, cooking, laughing out loud, holding the hand of someone who needs it, admiring a painting, listening to or playing music, tasting a succulent dish, smelling a perfume, laughing with friends… Do these actions often! It will make you feel good.
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Choose your friends wisely: online and in real life!
Be critical of the unique and unrealistic beauty model conveyed by the media and the fashion industry. Observe the slogans, attitudes and images (and their retouching) that make you feel inadequate and PROTEST. Claim your rights to be who you are!
Take a look at your social media: who do you follow and interact with? Do they make you feel worthy and empowered the way you are? If not, unfollow, delete and block them! They add no value to your life. Same goes with people in your life. Real friends like you and lift you up, not the opposite.
Whatever you do, do’t let yourself be convinced (neither by others, nor by yourself) that you are anywhere less then perfectly imperfect.
Your body image is disturbed? Don’t stay alone with your thoughts, seek help!
Remember that perceptions vary, that being beautiful (by the fashion industry’s standards) is not necessary to be a happy and worthy human, and that if your body image is disrupted there are solutions. You have the power to change things!
National Eating Disorders Association, Body Image