The concept of body-image is like a double-edged sword, cutting across parameters of physical fitness and mental health. One can choose to limit its definition to the denotation of the words ‘body image’, but in actuality, body-image is dependent on mental perceptions; even more so than the physical body shape.
Collin Mcshirley, in her article, What is Body Image?, posted on PsycheAlive, supports this notion when she defines body image as:
“… the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.”
This definition simply implies that your body image is defined by whatever thoughts you have about yourself. These thoughts can be negative, positive, both, and they can be conditioned by both the individual and the environment they find themselves.
In an environment, like what is obtainable in recent times, that emphasizes a prevalent image through the media, it is easier for people who do not fit into this parameter to begin to have thoughts about their body; but the thoughts do not just stop there. They go on to make conclusions that would end up making the person feel inadequate, insecure, and a host of other feelings, which sometimes can rappel into depression.
In their article, How much does Poor Body Image Affect Mental Health?, (posted on The Guardian on May 17, 2019) Lynn Eaton and Rossalyn Warren write:
“Statistics by the charity the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), show that poor body self-image can affect all ages, not just younger people, and the reactions it can trigger range from anxiety and self-disgust to suicidal thoughts.”
Can the relationship between body image and mental health be overemphasized?
As it always is with mental health, and mental health conditions, there are always causatives. Things that tips the balance of a person’s mental health and sends them going in the right way or wrong way. When it comes to body image, the individual’s perception and their environment’s perception are mutually unexclusive. They both work in tandem to tip the individual’s mental health towards positivity – which means confidence, great self-esteem, charisma et al – or negativity.
In a fact sheet on body image, the National Eating Disorders Collaboration delineates between four aspects of body image:
- Perceptual Body Image – how you see your body (which is more often incorrect).
- Affective Body Image – the way you feel about your body.
- Cognitive Body Image – the way you think about your body.
- Behavioral Body Image – the behaviors you exhibit as a result of your body image.
Having a positive body image relies, on the greater part, on the individual, just as it does when one has a negative body image. According to the aforementioned factsheet,
“Positive body image occurs when a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body.”
The factsheet also outlines the things having a positive body image can do to your mental health. A positive body image will improve your self-esteem, self-acceptance, and healthier outlooks and behaviors.
Ultimately, all it takes to determine a body image is perception, and perceptions can be changed, conditioned, or worked on.