We live in a society heavily influenced by beauty standards. So, it’s no surprise that you may feel the weight of societal pressure to conform to a certain body ideal.
If so, know that you aren’t alone. Research conducted by Dove Beauty revealed that 71% of women just like you feel the same. They also feel the pressure to look a certain way, leading to deep dissatisfaction with their bodies and appearance. The endless stream of messages about how we ‘should’ look creates a dangerous link between our self-worth and physical appearance. Therefore when our appearance changes, our sense self-worth, happiness, and confidence also take a hit. This leaves us feeling perpetually inadequate and constantly trying to control and change our bodies.
The relentless daily battle can feel exhausting and takes its toll on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Understanding how negative body image shows up for you is important. So, let’s dive into 6 signs of a negative body image.
1. Body Checking
One of the key indicators of a negative body image is the incessant habit of body checking. This behaviour manifests in various forms. You might constantly examine yourself in the mirror or scrutinise your reflection. You may also compulsively weighing yourself, or even resorting to pinching or measuring body parts.
While occasional body checking is a common occurrence, it can become obsessive when coupled with a negative body image. This fixation on your appearance has a significant impact on your emotional well-being, self-esteem and confidence.
This obsession can mean that, even on the days you’re feeling good, a number on a scale or an unflattering angle can instantly shatter any positive thoughts you have about yourself at that time.
Perhaps you’ve experiences the same?
2. It impacts everything…
The profound influence of body image extends far beyond what meets the eye.
Why? Because when your self-worth and physical appearance are interlinked it has a negative impact on various areas of your life, from work and relationships to mental health.
The implications of this deep-rooted connection between body image and mood are substantial. It’s natural for your mood to fluctuate throughout the day. However, when your emotional state becomes intricately linked to your appearance, even minor triggers can cause dramatic shifts. These triggers can range from body checking, a negative comment from someone or an invite to a social event. These seemingly insignificant occurrences can send your mood spiralling.
Research consistently highlights the alarming consequences of a negative body image. It has been associated with heightened levels of depression, increased anxiety, diminished self-esteem, and even the onset of disordered eating habits and unhealthy patterns of exercise. Women dissatisfied with their appearance and grappling with negative body image are particularly susceptible to these mental health disorders.
Therefore, it is crucial to start recognising and tracking how body image impacts your mood. By acknowledging the widespread influence it has on your emotional well-being, you can take the first steps towards reclaiming a healthier and more positive mindset.
3. You obsess and try to control food and exercise
Another telltale sign of a negative body image is an obsession with and need to control food and exercise. Many women, myself included, and perhaps you, have experienced an unhealthy relationship food and exercise.
Do you find yourself meticulously counting every calorie or scrutinising the fat content of every morsel you consume? If so, it’s likely that you’re struggle with a negative body image.
When you track and quantify the calories burned during exercise, solely focusing on numbers rather than overall health, it is indicative of an unhealthy mindset. You might convince yourself that such behaviours are based around your ‘health’. However, deep down, it could be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with your body.
When you have ‘rules’ around food, It can reach a point where every aspect of your life revolves around food. Perhaps you scrutinise menus before going for meals, prioritising calorie content over enjoyment and satisfaction in the moment.
This obsessive mindset stems from a negative body image, blurring the true purpose of food. While it serves as fuel for your body, it is also meant to be a social and enjoyable experience. However, when your relationship with food becomes entangled with rigid rules and restrictions, it inevitably affects your social interactions and experiences. These unhealthy eating habits can seem harmless but can easily to escalate to dangerous levels.
So, it’s time to break free from this detrimental cycle and cultivate a healthier perspective on food and exercise. One that prioritises nourishment, enjoyment, and balance.
4. Changing your body doesn’t have the result you want
The fourth sign of a negative body image lies is believing that changing your appearance will ‘sole your problems’. We have all experienced dissatisfaction with certain aspects of ourselves, whether that’s our appearance, weight, or shape. In these times we can resort to drastic measures in an attempt to change them, hoping to find peace, confidence and self-acceptance. However, what frequently occurs is that even after making those changes, we discover that it’s never enough.
So I wonder, Have you ever found yourself chasing something at the end of the ‘weight loss rainbow’?
If so, perhaps you’ve felt better momentarily, for a day, a week, or even six months. But eventually, you find new flaws to fixate on. Despite all the efforts to transform your body, whether through diets, weight loss, or altering your appearance in other ways, you still find yourself discontented. Continuously seeking perfection, believing that reaching a specific goal will finally bring you the confidence and self-love you desire.
However, in these circumstances changing your appearance, but it’s unlikely to resolve the underlying issue. Why? Because body image is fundamentally a matter of mindset, it resides in your thoughts, beliefs, and perception of yourself.
Do you find that losing weight or modifying your appearance does not bring lasting happiness or contentment? Do you simply encounter new problems and flaws to fixate on? If so, it’s essential to recognise that the root of the problem lies outside of your physical appearance.
Stop subjecting your body to exhaustive measures in an endless quest for change and focus on your body image. Begin to address the mental and emotional aspects that fuel dissatisfaction. Embracing self-acceptance and nurturing a positive mindset are the keys to finding true liberation and contentment.
5. You’re constantly comparing yourself
The fifth sign of a struggling body image is a pervasive habit of constantly comparing yourself to other women. We all engage in comparisons, whether it’s in terms of looks, relationships, parenting styles, or careers. However, when this tendency becomes obsessive and each comparison becomes a reflection of your own beauty and worth, it becomes a significant problem.
In today’s world, we are inundating with diet ads and curated portrayals of people living seemingly perfect lives. As you scroll through your feeds, you might find yourself making judgments, both about others but, most detrimentally, about yourself.
So, if you’re constantly comparing yourself negatively to others on social media and it leaves you feeling bad about yourself, it’s a glaring indication of an underlying body image issue.
Research shows that persistent exposure to idealised, thin bodies significantly contributes to our own dissatisfaction with our appearance. The more you engage in social comparisons, the more dissatisfied you become, setting off a negative downward spiral that can feel overwhelming.
Escaping the comparison trap is essential for fostering a healthier body image. Begin to understand that your beauty and worth extend far beyond external appearances. By consciously shifting your focus away from comparisons and cultivating body-acceptance, you can break free from this harmful cycle and begin embracing your own unique qualities and strengths.
6. You try and hide yourself
The final sign indicating a struggling body image is a constant desire to hide yourself. Perhaps you always opt for darker or looser clothes, trying to conceal your body. While, it’s natural to occasionally seek comfort in oversized hoodies and comfy pants. You deserve better than to hide behind clothes due to worrying about how others see you and potential negative comments.
Beyond clothing, the impulse to hide can also show up in making yourself small in social situations. Always avoiding being the centre of attention. Maybe you’ve missed parties, cancelled get togethers with friends or not spoken up within a group. Just the mere thought of being looked fills you with horror. However, if you’re trying to hide yourself continuously it takes a toll on your mental health and stops you growing and pursuing the things you truly desire.
So if you’re holding yourself back out of fear of being judged or scrutinised by others, then it’s time to break free from the chains of hiding and embrace yourself. By challenging the fear of judgment and reclaiming your confidence, you can pave the way for personal growth, meaningful connections, and the pursuit of your passions.
So, today I want you to remember that your worth extends beyond your external appearances and that you deserve to be seen and celebrated for who you truly are.
So what can you do…
Recognising the signs of a struggling body image is the first step towards a transformative journey of self-acceptance and self-love. In this blog we’ve explored the impact of body image on various aspects of our lives, and hopefully you can see that change is not achieved through external fixes but by cultivating a positive mindset and self-acceptance.
If you’re ready to take your self-acceptance journey to the next level, I invite you to watch my FREE Self-Acceptance Masterclass. During this masterclass I help you understand what Self-Acceptance truly is, what negative beliefs are holding you back from accepting yourself and walk you through an exercise to challenge these beliefs.
So, don’t let another day pass by feeling trapped in the grip of societal pressures and self-doubt. Step into your power, celebrate your individuality, and create a life of confidence and joy.
Remember, self-acceptance is a journey, and you deserve to embark on it with guidance and support. It’s time to reclaim your power and redefine what true beauty means to you.
Hey I’m Natalie, Supporting women like you on their road to self-acceptance and building their self-esteem is – as cliche as it sounds – my calling.