There are 3 processes that contribute to development of a negative body image
- General Social Pressures: There are social pressures to conform to a particular standard for physical attractiveness. e.g. women are valued for being thin and well-toned and men being tall and muscular. Being overweight is viewed negatively for both men and women. However, if we lived in a society where being large was considered attractive, it is unlikely we would have body image concerns
- Standing Out: It is thought that overweight people stand out more in a crowd and may gain unwanted attention.
- Past Incidents: Specific past negative incidents may have contributed to the formation of a person’s negative body image. Some examples include being teased at school for being overweight, being humiliated by a sports teacher or being told by a partner that they are fat. Studies have shown that people who have been overweight from childhood still continue to “overestimate their body size” even when they have lost weight or have got positive feedback from others.
Body Image Behaviours
The way a person perceives their body has an effect on their behaviour and their ability to function in various situations. Even when people lose weight (physical), they may not feel better about their body (mental).
- Body avoidance: This refers to avoiding situations where you feel particularly self-conscious about your appearance.
- Body checking: Frequent checking of an aspect of your appearance or weight.
Body Image Formation
It would be safe to say that any body image beliefs and thoughts would be the result of a number of factors such as:
BODY IMAGE = GENETICS + ENVIRONMENTAL TRIGGERS + PSYCHOLOGICAL FACTORS
We cannot control genetic factors or the culture we are brought up in, but being aware that environmental factors such as stressful situations, or teasing and the impact that influential people may have on our lives may determine our body image is important. We can then adjust the relative importance of those environmental factors or address them as they start to affect us.
Do the quiz to see whether you have developed any dysfunctional thoughts about your body image.