What is body image?
Body image is our feelings about ourselves physically, how we believe others see us and overall happiness with our bodies. It involves how we view ourselves in relation to our size, shape, weight, height, and specific body parts. When children and young people think about body image, it isn’t just about weight, it can include feelings about:
- Societal standards of what is beautiful
- Comparing themselves with friends, siblings, peers, or celebrities
- Social media body ideals and filtered images
- Cultural ideals of beauty
- Hiding their body because they feel ashamed of it
- Feeling self-conscious due to acne, scars, birthmarks, stretchmarks
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed about having a disability.
- Feeling as though their body does not match their gender or how they feel inside.
You might have heard of ‘body positivity’ which means loving your body for what it is, even if it isn’t perfect or doesn’t look what is considered beautiful by societal standards. An example of body positivity is to look in the mirror and say out loud all the things you like about your body. You might say, "I love the way my arms look in this top," or "While my tummy isn't flat or my legs might not be long, I still look good."
You also might have heard of body neutrality. This is different to body positivity as it doesn’t mean always loving your body, but more about accepting it and not focusing on your physical appearance but more on what your body can do and its abilities. An example of this would be saying to yourself, “My body is great as I can go for a run and play with my friends,” or “My body is amazing as it gives me the ability to laugh with my friends.” Body neutrality is about celebrating what the human body can do rather than how it looks.
Both body positivity and neutrality can be useful ways of supporting your child to learn to love, accept and celebrate their bodies as they are.
When a child is feeling bad about themselves, they might:
- Say negative things about their appearance like ‘I’m ugly,’ “Why can’t I look like them?” or “I wish I looked different.”
- Begin to overeat, undereat or over exercise to change the way their body physically looks
- Spend time excessively grooming to try to change or hide something about their appearance
- Wear oversized clothes to hide their body
- Compare themselves to their friends, peers or celebrities they see in the media
- Doubt themselves and resist trying new things
- Feel they aren’t doing as good as everyone else and feel left behind
If your child is having these thoughts and feelings about how they look, they might be struggling with their body image and self-esteem. They may find ‘normal’ tasks such as eating, getting dressed, leaving the house and meeting friends, start to become more difficult. Talk to your child if you believe they may be feeling this way and check out the 'find out more' on the right and 'get help' links at the bottom of this page too.