Body Image & Self-Esteem

Body Image & Self-Esteem

Having a healthy self-esteem & positive body image creates an environment of acceptance, confidence, and value in yourself and for others. Learn how self-esteem & body image can be shaped & affected by the world around us and learn ways to positively build up your own self-esteem & body image. Explore below & learn how to LOVE yourself!

6 Ways to Improve Body Image & Self-Esteem

#1 Build Your Mental Strength

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Mental strength is a person’s capability to cope successfully with stresses, demands, and difficulties and achieve their full potential regardless of the conditions. Developing mental strength is critical to living your best life.

Just as people go to the gym and lift weights to strengthen their muscles, we can also improve our mental health by using certain tools and methods.

When we are mentally healthy, this helps us to live a life that we like, with significant social relationships and a positive sense of self-worth. It also enables us to take chances, do new things, and cope better with any tough circumstances that life may throw our way.

Mental strength is something that we can develop over time, by prioritizing our personal growth. Just as exercise and a healthy diet can bring physical benefits, good mental habits — such as practicing thankfulness — can bring mental health benefits.

To experience improvements in our physical health, we must also consider limiting unhealthy and harmful behaviors like eating junk food. In a similar way, if we want to see mental improvements, we need to give up bad habits like making negative comments about ourselves.

To learn more about building mental strength, check out BLOOM’s  Mental Strength section of the website.

#2 Accepting Yourself & Your Body

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Want to improve the way you see yourself, and you’re not sure where to start? Here are some strategies you can follow.

To begin, try to stop treating your body and mind as an object, and avoid comparing it to the “ideal” bodies that you see in the media. Think about how much time you spend mentally assessing how your body appears and worrying about how others see you.

You can begin to love your body by recognizing that how you think others may see you doesn’t matter, only your viewpoint matters in this regard. Take pride in yourself by standing tall with your chest wide and shoulders relaxed, to demonstrate love for your body. Continually remind yourself of all the things you like about yourself, inside and out. Remind yourself of what your body can do and accomplish. By doing these things, over time you can slowly develop an appreciation for and acceptance of your body.

We all need to appreciate our individual physical, social, and learning strengths and challenges. Maybe you feel you have social, mental health, learning or motor differences from many of your peers. This is more common than you may realize! With each of these unique differences come so many amazing strengths and abilities. Surround yourself with people who celebrate your individuality and will help you find successful role models.

Change your mindset of how you see yourself. Stop any thoughts that focus on only one aspect or part of yourself that you have negative thoughts about. See yourself as a whole person and not just negative parts.

Try to change the way you talk to yourself and about yourself from negative, to positive. To develop a healthy connection with our minds and bodies, we need to stop speaking so harshly to ourselves! We must unlearn society’s method of doing things and do things our way! Treat yourself and your body as a friend — this is a major step toward developing a good self-perception. Be kind to yourself.

Remove any negative influences that cause you to feel shame, anxious, or insecure about yourself.  This can include removing yourself from viewing negative and distorted media, or distancing yourself from anyone or anything that does not support and love you for who you are.

Above all, remember that it is alright to make mistakes along the way. Be patient with yourself; improving our everyday habits is a marathon, not a sprint. Self-love may contribute significantly to a healthy lifestyle.

#3 Change your Mindset with Mindfulness

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Mindfulness is a kind of meditation in which a person focuses on being aware of what they are experiencing and feeling, without judgment or interpretation. Mindfulness training includes the use of guided meditations, and other relaxation approaches to help the body relax and decrease stress.

Here are 5 simple ways to cultivate mindfulness:
  1. Attention –  Try to slow down and observe things around you. Make an effort to engage all of your senses while experiencing your surroundings — touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste. For instance, when you eat your favorite food, take time to smell, taste, and appreciate it.
  2. Living in the moment –  Make a conscious effort to bring an open and accepting awareness to everything you do. Discover delight in little pleasures.
  3. Accepting yourself – Try to respect and accept yourself as you would a good friend.
  4. Gratitude – Recognize the amazing things your body can feel, do, and accomplish. View yourself as a whole person with many attributes that you are grateful for. Give yourself thanks and self-praise for the incredible things you are able to do and achieve with your body.
  5. Kindness – Practice acts of giving or contributing to something that makes you feel good about yourself.

You can practice these mindfulness techniques anywhere and at any time.

Some other mindfulness activities, such as a body scan or sitting meditation, require some time in a quiet location free of distractions or disruptions. You may want to do these kinds of mental workouts first thing in the morning before beginning your daily routine.

To learn how to practice mindfulness and listen to audio practices, visit BLOOM’s Mindfulness section of the hub.

 

#4 Take Care of your Body

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

By making healthy choices in regards to nutrition, sleep, exercise, and activities that provide you pleasure, you can take good care of your body.

Our physical and mental health are completely connected. Many aspects of our lifestyle and behaviors affect our mental health and general well-being. Just as good sleep, food, and exercise habits are critical for physical fitness, they also have a strong correlation with mental health.

Consuming nutritious foods, engaging in regular physical activity, and ensuring that you receive enough high-quality sleep each night may help improve your psychological well-being and decrease your chance of developing disorders like depression and anxiety.

Likewise, a lack of exercise, sleep, and healthy food can have a detrimental effect on your mood and perspective. We should all try to eat, exercise, and sleep in ways that benefit our bodies and minds. However, according to a study published in “Frontiers in Psychology,” sleep seems to be the greatest predictor of mental well-being — specifically sleep quality, probably followed by sleep quantity (Rönnlund & Carelli, 2018).

This means that, although you should prioritize nutrition, exercise, and sleep for optimum health and longevity, focusing additional attention on your sleep patterns may be the most effective approach for maintaining a positive attitude and avoiding stress, anxiety, and mood swings.

To learn more about taking care of your body, visit BLOOM’s Healthy Body section of the hub.

 

Tip #5 Set Achievable Goals for Your Health & Yourself

Over time, goal-setting methods have been shown to assist people in beginning and maintaining healthy behaviors. Goals can motivate us, and help us to start new habits, guide our attention, and sustain a feeling of momentum in our lives. Goals also help us to concentrate our attention, and achieving a goal can foster a feeling of self-mastery. Setting goals is not only inspiring, it can also help us enhance our mental health and our level of personal and professional success.

Start by setting achievable goals. These goals can involve a number of steps that you can achieve along the way. Having smaller steps will allow you to see small gains and keep on track. It will also help manage the ability to adapt in case there is failure along the way.

The hardest part about a goal is starting. So jump in, tell others about your goal, and expect some hiccups along the way. Even starting on your goal is a huge measure of success! Once you start seeing progress towards your goal, you may even inspire family and friends to start working towards their own. When setting goals, it can be helpful to remember the S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Specific: Every goal should be clear and specific.

Measurable: It is important to have measurable goals so that you can track your progress, stay on track, and keep motivated.

Achievable: A goal that is within your skill set or that stretches your abilities a bit is far more likely to be attainable and accomplished.

Relevant: It is helpful to have realistic and relevant goals. When making a goal, be sure that it is relevant for your life and lights you up with inspiration. Also be sure it is reasonable according to your skillset and resources (time and money) available.

Time Bound: Be sure to give your goal a time frame or target date so that you have a deadline to work toward.

To learn more about setting achievable goals and building healthy habits, visit BLOOM’s Mental Strength section of the hub.

 

Tip #6 You are enough

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Team BLOOM

Self-worth is a measure of how much you respect yourself. It is not determined by what others think of you or the accomplishments you have made — it comes from within. You are inherently worthy and can give yourself the love you desire. It is a choice you can consciously make everyday and with practice it will get easier.

Self-acceptance is probably the greatest gift you can offer yourself. Self-acceptance is unconditional: it means accepting you as you are, faults and all. If we make self-acceptance or self-love conditional, the reality is that we will never be satisfied with ourselves.

The truth is that our bodies are continuously evolving and will never be the same as they were the day before. If we put our self-worth on something as fluid as our appearances, we will perpetually ride the emotional roller coaster of body preoccupation and humiliation.

If you want to alter your appearance, do it for yourself. However, keep in mind that your body image should not determine your value. A lovely body or a gorgeous face will not last forever nor change the way you truly feel about yourself inside. If your self-worth is based only on how you look, then imagine how your self-worth could change from day to day. Explore self-worth beyond the boundaries of your appearance. Once you understand who you are and are content with that, you can find serenity even while you navigate life’s unavoidable highs and lows.

The most important thing to remember and repeat to yourself is that you are already whole. You are unique and you are enough just the way you are.

You Are Enough

You are Enough

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Team BLOOM

Self-worth is a measure of how much you respect yourself. It is not determined by what others think of you or the accomplishments you have made — it comes from within. You are inherently worthy and can give yourself the love you desire. It is a choice you can consciously make everyday and with practice it will get easier.

Self-acceptance is probably the greatest gift you can offer yourself. Self-acceptance is unconditional: it means accepting you as you are, faults and all. If we make self-acceptance or self-love conditional, the reality is that we will never be satisfied with ourselves.

The truth is that our bodies are continuously evolving and will never be the same as they were the day before. If we put our self-worth on something as fluid as our appearances, we will perpetually ride the emotional roller coaster of body preoccupation and humiliation.

If you want to alter your appearance, do it for yourself. However, keep in mind that your body image should not determine your value. A lovely body or a gorgeous face will not last forever nor change the way you truly feel about yourself inside. If your self-worth is based only on how you look, then imagine how your self-worth could change from day to day. Explore self-worth beyond the boundaries of your appearance. Once you understand who you are and are content with that, you can find serenity even while you navigate life’s unavoidable highs and lows.

The most important thing to remember and repeat to yourself is that you are already whole. You are unique and you are enough just the way you are.

Effects of Racism on Self-Esteem

Effects of Racism on Self-esteem

Written by Dr. Kinette Richards, Ph.D., NCC

Racism is another obstacle on the path to good self-esteem and a healthy body image. Racism is a belief system that treats one person better than another based on their race, ethnicity, or the color of their skin. In fact, racism is the practice of believing that one race is superior to another one. When people mistreat other people because of their skin color, race, or ethnicity, it has the same kind of effect as when people are discriminated against. However, with racism, it sets people up to believe that they have the right to treat other people as less than themselves or feel like they are better than someone else simply because of their skin color, or racial background.

There are many systems in the world where you can find racism embedded in their policies and practices, this is called systemic racism. Some of these systems include housing, schooling, healthcare, neighborhoods, and policing. For example, when people of color use these systems — want to buy a house in a particular neighborhood, go to a certain school, get medical care, or call the police for help — racism can stop them from getting the fair treatment they deserve. These kinds of practices can chip away at someone’s self-confidence and over time can cause anxiety, distress, anger, lower self-worth, and depression — this all negatively impacts an individual’s self-esteem.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Effects of Discrimination on Self-Esteem

Effects of Discrimination on Self-esteem

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

One of the many obstacles on the path to good self-esteem and a healthy body image is discrimination. Discrimination is often defined as the unjust and prejudicial treatment of people based on a particular category they belong to. This includes marginalized groups of people based on race, mental and physical disabilities, LGBTQIA+ status, religion, and other identities. When we think about what self-esteem is — the way we feel about ourselves and how we think about our own worth and value — it can be easy to see how discrimination impacts our self-esteem. When people treat someone unfairly because of things they identify with or that are inherently part of who they are, it can lead to all sorts of unfavorable impacts like chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. This in turn can impact negatively on an individual’s self-esteem, especially if that individual lets other people’s opinions weigh heavily on them.

Discrimination can cause people to begin to believe that they are not worth much. Often youth might wonder “Why me?” This is because they don’t understand why someone might treat them in a different manner. Discrimination serves to make people believe they don’t deserve certain things that are a basic right for everyone. For example, when some people don’t have opportunities to participate in certain clubs or activities, it can be because of discrimination. In some schools, certain students get to be in advanced classes more than other students, and typically it is Black students and people of color that are kept out of those classes. People with physical disabilities may be passed up for a job; or perhaps a person is not promoted solely because of what they look like or that they identify as a woman, instead of basing that promotion on the work they have performed.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

 

Distorted Body Image

Distorted Body Image

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

A distorted body image is another obstacle on the path to good self-esteem and a healthy body image. We first begin to develop views of our body’s health, beauty, functioning, and acceptability when we are babies. As we grow up, our body image continues to develop and is influenced by comments and opinions from our family members, classmates, teachers, and coaches.

A negative or distorted body image is when someone’s perception of their body is warped or different to how they actually look to others. As with eating disorders, it is more prevalent in those who identify as female, although many who identify as male can also suffer from this.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Perfectionism & Body Image

Perfectionism & Body Image

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Perfectionism and self-criticism are other personality characteristics that can contribute to a negative body image.

Many people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia also have distortions of their body image, and they often have neurological abnormalities in their parietal cortex, the region of the brain that assists people in sensing their body proportions. In other words, these people may see their bodies as bigger than they really are, because the information provided by their brain is incorrect.

Most people who lose weight are able to adjust their mental body image to reflect what they see in the mirror. But people who become malnourished as a result of anorexia or bulimia may have difficulty updating their mental picture. They may continue to perceive a larger version of their body, instead of their present physical state. Additionally, people who suffer from body image distortion often concentrate on perceived faults rather than their overall look.

It can be a challenge to admit that you are suffering from a distorted body image. People experiencing this might ignore the worries of friends and family members, because what friends and family say does not match with what they themselves see when they look in the mirror. For anyone trying to address an eating disorder in therapy, it is essential to address body image distortion. When a distorted or negative body image is not addressed, this can increase a person’s risk of recurrent and ongoing disordered eating.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Unhealthy Behaviors & Body Image

Unhealthy Behaviors

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Sometimes people participate in unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to change their body image. This can include using chemicals, disordered eating, diets, and surgery.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are associated with a distorted sense of body image that has a negative impact on your health, feelings, and capacity to perform in critical aspects of life. To learn more about Eating Disorders Click Here

Typically, eating disorders are associated with an excessive emphasis on weight, body shape, and food, which results in dangerous eating habits. Eating disorders may lead to severe malnourishment and can even be life-threatening. Every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder (Source: Eating Disorder Statistics. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).

One of the main reasons that people seek cosmetic surgery is to improve their self-esteem and psychosocial functioning (von Soest et al., 2009). We would expect when someone undergoes cosmetic surgery with a successful outcome, this would increase their self-esteem and mental wellness, but unfortunately this is not always the case. One’s negative perception of themselves can be distorted and remain deeply rooted beyond simply changing one’s physical appearance.

To learn more about Eating Disorders, check out BLOOM’s Eating Disorders section of the hub.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Unhealthy Relationships & Self-Esteem

Unhealthy Relationships & Self-Esteem

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Conflict, unhealthy feelings & behavior

An unsupportive family, bullying, an abusive relationship, and negative partnerships and friendships can also greatly influence an individual’s self-esteem and confidence. If a preteen or teen experiences negative behavior where they are consistently put down, ridiculed, made to feel like they do not belong or have worth in the partnership, or are treated like they cannot perform tasks adequately compared to others this will lead to insecurity and a low sense of self-confidence.

Relationships can be difficult at times, especially if you or your friend/partner are experiencing low self-esteem. Insecurity can create feelings of anger, jealousy, and envy that can greatly affect how someone acts and treats others.

Common feelings and behaviors someone with low self-esteem may exhibit include some of the following:

  • Acts of jealousy that may present with aggression, frustration, or conflict
  • Acts of manipulation to coerce their friends or partners not to spend time with others
  • Feelings of insecurity in their relationships (partners and friendships)/Thoughts that their friends do not want to spend time with them or frequently feel left out
  • Acts of infidelity or searching for attention to justify self-worth
  • Feeling that their partner is attracted to someone else or not attracted to them
  • Frequently feeling criticized, hurt, or attacked
  • Not wanting to admit or own up when a mistake is made
  • Perceiving that others do not believe in their abilities
  • Feeling unsuccessful at school
  • May try to put others down,  talk about others or bully others to make themselves feel better or more worthy
  • Lashing out or being violent to others, as a way of trying to protect themselves/If we believe we will be attacked or criticized, we may feel that we need to attack the person or people who are judging us (or who we imagine to be judging us)
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, or loneliness that arise when worried about rejection in friendships or other relationships
  • Feelings of insecurity, shame, or embarrassment when teased or bullied about appearance
  • Feel anxious or nervous in social situations/worried that others may not like them or they will say the wrong things

In order to achieve a successful, healthy relationship with others, one must recognize their own self-worth and self-love first. Loving yourself and keeping true to the things that you love to do will develop a healthy path to successful relationships.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

To learn more about relationships, visit BLOOM’s Relationships section of the hub.

 

Eating Disorders & Self-Esteem

Eating Disorders

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

People who are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and eating disorders. Eating disorders may have many causes, but research shows that the most common factor leading to the development of an eating disorder is a person’s disappointment with their physical appearance (Stice, 2002).

Eating disorders are complicated and affect people of different ages. All eating disorders have a variety of biological, psychological, and social risk factors. These variables can result in very different views, experiences, and symptoms among individuals with the same eating problem.

Body image issues often begin in childhood and continue throughout adulthood. The beginning age varies by person; some people experience body image issues at a younger age, while other people never experience body image issues at all.

By age six, kids (particularly those that identify as girls) begin to show worries about their weight and form. Almost half of preteen and teen girls, and nearly a third of boys in the same age group engage in harmful weight-control practices such as skipping meals.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

To learn more about Eating Disorders, check out BLOOM’s Eating Disorders section of the hub.

Anxiety & Self-Esteem

Anxiety & Self-Esteem

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

While most people experience temporary feelings of guilt when they make a mistake, they often bounce back. If you suffer from poor self-esteem, how you feel in a certain situation may influence how you feel about yourself in general. Every mistake you make may send you sliding into despair.

People with healthy self-esteem are able to properly assess their strengths and shortcomings while still believing that they are valuable individuals. People who suffer from social anxiety disorder or SAD, often have negative beliefs about themselves, for example: “I am not able to control my anxiety around others” and/or “I don’t have the ability to deal with social or school situations.” These beliefs are sometimes based on a poor sense of self-worth, and they can contribute to higher levels of anxiety.

If you suffer from a social anxiety disorder, you are likely to have high standards for yourself and find it difficult to set achievable goals. You might feel like you need everyone to like you, and that you must never say or do anything wrong. When you find yourself in a difficult situation with friends or school work, you are more likely to focus on your nervousness, to have a negative view of yourself, and to exaggerate the negative effects of making a mistake.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Stress/Depression/Trauma & Self-Esteem

Stress, Depression, & Trauma and Self-Esteem

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Some stressful situations can affect our self-esteem, which then affects how we respond to and deal with stress. According to a study conducted by Galanakis et al. (2016), toxic stress or trauma can worsen the symptoms of almost all physical and emotional disorders.

“Trauma is a reaction to an experience that results in the victim/survivor to feel helpless and vulnerable, with a loss of control and safety.” –Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

“People of color can also experience racial trauma from forms of discrimination and systemic inequities. Weathering the cumulative effects of living in a society characterized by white dominance and privilege produces a kind of physical and mental wear-and-tear that contributes to a host of psychological and physical ailments.” Dr. Ebony McGee Vanderbilt University

In addition, people who experience abuse, neglect, or life-events that leave them feeling unsafe, including those who are discriminated against based on their heritage and culture, neurodivergence, learning and physical differences, or gender and sexuality are also vulnerable to trauma reactions. If you suffer from depression, mood disorders, trauma, or other illnesses associated with poor self-esteem, you may experience more stress and find it more difficult to handle the daily pressures of life. Here are some factors to consider.

  • The size and strength of your social support network — friends, family, etc, has a big effect on how you experience and deal with stress. Individuals who have a strong social support network experience less stress than their more isolated friends. People with low self-esteem and low self-acceptance sometimes lack social support from friends, family, teachers etc., and this has been linked with higher levels of stress.
  • Physical and emotional fitness can also affect how we deal with stress. If we are physically and emotionally fit, dealing with stress becomes a lot simpler.
  • Often, poor self-esteem means that we are emotionally unprepared to deal with the inevitable difficulties of everyday life, and this increases our feeling of being under stress.
  • The frequency and intensity of stress will also impact our reaction to it. If we have time and space to recover and feel safe, we can manage our stressors better.
  • People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) often battle with poor self-esteem. They may lack self-esteem or believe they are worthless. This can have long-term consequences.

To learn more about mood disorders, depression, or dealing with trauma, visit BLOOM’s Mental Illness section of the hub.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

Body Dysmorphia & Body Image

Body Dysmorphia & Body Image

Written by Dr. RJ

  |  Reviewed by Jen Bell

Body dysmorphia, or BDD, is a severe type of distortion of one’s body image. It affects 2% of the population and is strongly associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from BDD often get obsessed with small or nonexistent physical abnormalities. For instance, someone may be concerned about their eyes being uneven or their hands being too large. They are often far more aware of their perceived faults than others around them.

People suffering from BDD often think their claimed defects make them seem ugly or even deformed. They often spend a great deal of time engaging in compulsions to compensate for this defect, including excessive grooming. People often experience significant discomfort as a result of their body dysmorphia. Some may avoid being in public, out of embarrassment about their looks. Still, people often delay getting treatment for their problems out of fear of seeming vain.

In contrast to eating disorders, body dysmorphia is often not associated with worries about one’s weight. Rather than that, BDD is often focused on a single body region, such as the nose or ears. The exception to this is muscle dysmorphia, a kind of BDD in which individuals are concerned about their muscularity.

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Cosmetic Surgery, between 8% and 15% of people who suffer from BDD seek plastic surgery. Unfortunately, 90% of individuals with BDD who have cosmetic surgery are unsatisfied with the outcome, and many report that their symptoms worsen. Suicide is 45 times more prevalent among individuals with BDD than in the general population. This is why mental health therapy is essential for anyone suffering from body dysmorphia.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

 

Gender Dysphoria & Body Image

Gender Dysphoria & Body Image

Written by Jen Bell

  |  Reviewed by Mason Dunn

Eating disorders in the transgender community

Transgender and nonbinary people experience the same diet-culture and social pressures about “ideal” bodies that cisgender (non-trans) people experience. In addition, experiencing transphobia or simply living in our strongly gendered society can cause gender non-conforming youth to struggle with their body image and self-esteem.

The incidence of eating disorders in the transgender community is much higher than in the cisgender population. One 2015 study found that 16% of college-aged transgender students surveyed had experienced or were experiencing an eating disorder.

Differences between gender dysphoria & body dysmorphia

Gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia are not the same thing, although some trans and nonbinary people may experience both. Body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder, but gender dysphoria is not.

Gender dysphoria is the name for the distress and/or discomfort caused by the difference between a person’s gender identity and their gender assigned at birth. This can apply to boys and men who were assigned a female gender at birth, girls/women who were assigned the male gender at birth, and nonbinary people. People with gender dysphoria may identify as transgender and/or nonbinary.

It’s important to remember that not all transgender and/or nonbinary people experience gender dysphoria, and not all stress or discomfort experienced by transgender people is due to gender dysphoria.

Someone with gender dysphoria experiences discomfort or distress because their body does not reflect their true gender. On the other hand, a person with body dysmorphia experiences distress because they perceive flaws in their body or weight that do not exist.

With gender dysphoria, there is no failure to see the body as it is, and gender dysphoria can be eased by changing the body. For example, top surgery (a procedure to remove breast tissue) is known to help reduce or eliminate chest dysphoria for those who were assigned female at birth but whose gender identity does not include having breasts.

While gender dysphoria can be reduced by making changes to our bodies, this does not work for cases of body dysmorphia. People with body dysmorphia and eating disorders like anorexia don’t actually feel better about their body when they use eating disorder behaviors or have surgery, even if their body is physically transformed.

Healing body dysmorphia involves deep and long-term therapy, where one is encouraged to challenge their own thoughts. Whereas gender dysphoria can be improved with gender-affirming actions, like hormone replacement therapy or wearing different clothing.

Trans people face so much discrimination that they are less likely to seek medical care or psychiatric care. Transgender people with eating disorders need medical care, which is respectful of trans identities, and understands that gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.

Remember, there are many ways to counter the external challenges you will face in your journey to develop a healthy body image and self-esteem. Since Day 1, you’ve had everything you need within yourself – don’t let the world convince you that you do not. Know that YOU are inherently worthy and have the power to love yourself in the way you desire by making small choices and commitments to yourself everyday. Remind yourself of this truth daily. With practice it will get easier and you will likely start to notice a difference in the way you feel.

 

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