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The understated beauty of having a positive body image

Set your sights on a more beautiful and empowered you.

Whenever you look in a mirror, are there things you want to change about what you see?

You might be insecure about your weight, the excess fat on your stomach, your thick thighs, or some other part of your body. If you feel like this about yourself, you’re not alone. Body image issues are now more common especially among younger women, who are most swayed by popular media.

According to psychologist Heather R. Gallivan, about 4 out of 5 women admit that they don’t like how they look. But just because it’s how things are doesn’t mean it’s how things should be.

Do we really have to change what we look like to be happier and more confident? Or is there something else entirely that needs to change?

Reflecting on body image

What do we really see when we look at our reflection in the mirror?

Body image doesn’t have much to do with our actual weight, height, or shape. Instead, it’s about how we think and feel about our appearance. And this picture we create in our heads? It’s subjective— strongly influenced by what we hear from our family, friends, and society.

While anyone can suffer from a negative body image, this problem is actually more widespread among women. However, lesbian women are less likely to be swayed by such feelings than heterosexual and bisexual women.

But the truth is, beauty standards the world teaches us aren’t even as objective or consistent as you think. It would only take three minutes for you to watch “Women's Ideal Body Types Throughout History” and realize that throughout three millennia, humankind has placed a diverse set of figures on a pedestal in various cultures.

And why look further when we can see this in our own country’s culture? A Cut episode of the Philippines’ “100 years of beauty in 1 Minute” features how our standards have been influenced by Spanish, American, Japanese, and Korean influences mixing with our own through the decades.

Women’s bodies come in all shapes and sizes. To find beauty in diversity, we must learn to admire each and every physique, including our own.

As it turns out, the “ideal” female body is a myth. So instead of running after beauty trends that change year after year, why can’t we stop and accept the way we are now?

Smoke and mirrors

While the image of perfection has always changed as time passes by, the societal pressure on women to look picture perfect has remained constant.

In this day and age, you’re probably used to seeing this era’s “It Girl” through both traditional and digital media. We’re constantly bombarded by photos of female celebrities maintaining a youthful face and supple skin way past their prime. Or updates of female influencers promoting the latest diet fad or exercise routine. 

The messages you’ve been getting are more confusing than ever: be skinny but healthy, and have large breasts and backside with a toned stomach.

It’s hardly fair for most women. Truth be told, the weight criterion alone has become so hard to attain that it could only be achieved by less than 5% of the female population. The media rarely shows us the plastic surgery or photo manipulation required to meet these crazy standards.

The scientific consensus points towards how these messages frequently bring about body image dissatisfaction. And yet, they are just coming from corporations who tell us we’re not enough because they want to sell us something— clothes, skincare, or other products that take advantage of our insecurities.

As a woman, you get to control your own body and self-worth. Don’t let society dictate what you should look like or how you should act to be liked.

This is how society can alter the perception of women, which is why you end up frowning at your reflection in despair. But you’ve been gazing at smoke and mirrors all along.

Why is it so important to develop a positive body image in spite of what the media tells us?

  • Body satisfaction makes you less vulnerable to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
  • A positive body image brings about your emotional well-being, since self-esteem is the biggest predictor of body satisfaction.
  • Body satisfaction would also mean a higher sexual function, which means better sex and more orgasms for you. A Canadian research found that women with a negative body image had difficulty achieving arousal and orgasm.

It’s never too late to change the way you see yourself. No matter what others might think, all women are beautiful in every shape and form. We should be free to love our bodies the way they are and enjoy sexual pleasure the way we want.

Thinking body positive

The time has come for us to rethink the way we look at ourselves in the mirror.

Women of all shapes and sizes are worthy of appreciation. So instead of wanting to change what you don’t like, you can start by embracing who you truly are as a person. 

Body positivity is all about understanding your own worth, caring for your body, and not punishing yourself for not looking a certain way. It’s also being more comfortable in your own skin, despite other people’s opinions.

Women who don’t like their own naked body will find it difficult to get intimate with someone else.

Be kinder to your reflection. Nurture your body knowing that you are deserving of love. When you appreciate even the changes in your appearance through the years, you will be able to deepen your relationship with your partner and, more importantly, yourself.

So what are some small things you can do to appreciate your own silhouette?

  • Get your body moving. Cherish the moments when you run, laugh, sing, dance, or dream. Your body may not look “perfect” doing these things, but you can still be grateful for how it helps you achieve your daily goals.
  • Reframe the big picture. Mainstream media often has its own ideas of what it means to look beautiful. How about discussing this with your friends? You’d surely discover how much these images and messages are far off from reality.
  • Make a list. Write down everything that you like about your body. Have your trusted friend or partner help out if you like, so you can go back to the list every time you need the motivation.
  • Find your role models. Surround yourself with influencers who have a body shape or type similar to yours. One Instagram experiment demonstrates how women felt instantly better about themselves right after viewing body-positive posts.
  • Sexy you around. Being comfortable in your own skin also involves wearing what makes you feel good about your body. Sexy lingerie isn’t off-limits at all—there’s always one that suits every body type!

Unlearning your negative thoughts and feelings about your own body may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. After all, body positivity is about challenging society’s narrow assumptions to adopt a more inclusive idea of beauty— one that includes the woman you see in the mirror.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is body image?

Body image is how you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror. This can include what you think about your height, weight, and other aspects of your physical appearance. What people say about you or other societal expectations can also affect how comfortable you are in your own skin.

Why is it important for women to have a positive body image?

A positive body image promotes good physical and mental health among women. That’s because having good thoughts and feelings about yourself makes you less likely to develop anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and other forms of mental illness. It also enables you to develop a healthy lifestyle for a confidence and self-esteem boost.

What are the causes of negative body image? 

Scientists cannot pinpoint a single cause, but there are several factors that can make you prone to developing a negative body image. These include being overweight or underweight, getting bullied for your appearance, and absorbing unhealthy images or messages about “ideal” body types from the media.

Are women more likely to have a negative body image?

Unfortunately, yes. Studies show that while all genders can suffer from body dissatisfaction, women tend to be least happy about their appearance, regardless of age or ethnicity. Experts say that this is mostly due to the unrealistic portrayals of women across all forms of media. 

How can I have sex with my partner when I’m not confident with my body?

Sex is more than just a physical activity. The emotional connection you share should make you attractive and desirable no matter how you look, so don’t sweat it! More than anything else, sex is only one way for you to show your love and appreciation for each other.

What can I do to improve my body image?

There are many things you can do to improve your body image. However, it all boils down to accepting your own body and listening to voices of encouragement. These won’t instantly get rid of your negative thoughts, but they’d help you develop healthier thought patterns towards a positive body image.

What if my partner doesn’t like the way I look?

You have to voice out your concerns when your partner makes you feel bad about your body. Talk to them about how you’re currently working on accepting yourself and that they should be willing to help you in this process. If nothing changes, then it’s probably time to reconsider your relationship.

Posted by Prism Kristensen

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