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Body image


Body image is the way you see your physical self, and the thoughts and feelings you have about your body. It can include your body’s shape, size, weight, gender identity, and any other aspect of your physical attributes, like your hair or skin.

Having a healthy body image is something we should all aspire to – it means accepting and appreciating your body, focusing on what it can do rather than how it appears, and looking after it (keeping yourself safe, comfortable and in good health).

But sometimes, you might develop a negative body image, fixating on how your body appears, feeling like it doesn’t look good enough or conform to certain standards, or believing that your worth is tied to your looks.

Around 28% of males and 35% of females ages 11-24 years are dissatisfied with their appearance, so it’s not uncommon for young people to struggle to achieve a positive view of themselves. There are some demographics who are more at risk of feeling body dissatisfaction, including women, people with low self-esteem, and those with higher weight.

Today, we are bombarded with images in the media of how we should look. These expectations are unrealistic – the images are always highly modified and don’t reflect how bodies look in real life. But this means that negative body image feelings are on the rise.

What to do

There isn’t a single type of beauty or ideal body: we all look different, and we should try to focus on health, not weight. Celebrate what your body can do, instead of feeling unhappy about how it looks. A healthy body will allow you to move through the world and accomplish your goals, no matter what it looks like.

Here are some ways to foster a healthy, positive body image:

  • Move your body in a joyful way and do exercise that makes you feel good (like walking the dog or dancing) rather than exercise that aims to change your body. Physical activities that make you feel good will support your health and improve your mood.
  • Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel bad about your body: there are many accounts run by influencers which challenge the norm and can help you build a more positive body image.
  • Try not to compare yourself with others. Instead, be kind and compassionate toward yourself, the way you would be toward someone you love.

It’s also helpful to read about the body positivity, body neutrality and body acceptance movements. These approaches, which frame the body as something functional and not just aesthetic, can be helpful in pushing back against the dominant images that we see in mainstream media.

The Health at Every Size movement is similar: it debunks the traditional theory that healthiness is inherently linked to thinness and weight loss.

Getting support

Body image issues are a normal part of life for most people, but sometimes they can be a sign of something more serious. They can lead to other mental health issues such as eating disorders and depression, or body image disorders such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

If you want to talk to someone about your negative feelings about your body, we encourage you to chat to a health professional. You can make an appointment with the Deakin Medical Centre or our Counselling and Psychological Support Team.

You can talk to them about any aspect of how you feel about your body. They can also give you advice about how to cultivate a more positive body image, how to have a good relationship with food and exercise, and, if you are at risk of a disorder or mental health condition, they can refer you for specialist support.

More help and advice

The more you read and learn about how your body image is influenced by the world around you, the better you will get at reframing your own in a healthy, positive way.

The Butterfly Foundation has in-depth information and resources about body image on their website, like this 6 Ways to be Body Positive flyer.

Headspace has a great interactive tool that will help you understand more about body image, how it is influenced, and what you can do to try and have a more positive one.

Reach Out has some practical things that you can do if you are feeling bad about your body. You can also call the Butterfly National Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE for support with body image issues or eating disorders. The helpline is available 7 days a week from 8am-midnight. You can also chat online or via email.

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