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Body Image - More than the Reflection in the Mirror

Body image is a topic that is openly and widely discussed. A lot of people are very aware that they have poor body image and think the answer to this issue is changing their body. The body is not the issue here. It's the image you have of that body.

There are plenty of factors which influence body image from societal pressure to how you were taught to think about your body. If you grew up in a house were there was constant body talk and body shaming that is absolutely going to have an impact on your relationship with your own body.

Body image can be broken down into four categories :

Perceptual body image - the way you see yourself. Of course this may not match up with how somebody else sees you or be an accurate reflection of how you look at all.

Affective body image - this is the way you feel about your body. There can be a whole range of feelings from feeling content to extreme body hatred.

Cognitive body image - is the way you think about your body. This is the area that can lead to preoccupation with shape and weight. The brain is a fixer and when dissatisfaction occurs in this area the brain will try to fix whatever it believes the issue to this case the body, even though the issue is actually with the thinking.

Behavioural body image is the behaviours you engage in as a result of your body image. So when a person is dissatisfied they may make small changes but of course there are some extreme changes that lead to unhealthy behaviours and eating disordered behaviours.

All of the above hugely depend on the lens in which we see and experience the world and therefore see and experience our body.

The image you have of your body is a reflection of how you see the world, how you think about things, how you feel and what you do as a consequence. Disturbance in any of these areas leads to poor body image, low self-esteem and sometimes dysfunctional eating or behaviour.

When your body image is poor then it can often be a good idea to check in and see which one of the four areas the problem seems to reside, as this will determine how you deal with it.

It has long been suggested that using positive affirmations to tackle poor body image can be beneficial. This is true to a degree, it certainly can help to make peace with your body but will only have an impact if the problem is coming from your perceptual or cognitive area.

If you have really strong feelings and sensations about your body, for example if there is a huge feeling of anger toward your body or disgust that you can actually physically feel somewhere in your body then this needs to be explored - where do you feel it, what's it about, how long is it there, What is the purpose of the feeling? Using affirmations in this case is like putting a band aid over a wound and just ignoring the root, if you feel it you at least have some information to work with.

If the issue is deep rooted in the thinking because you generally are quite a negative thinker who tends to have a poor outlook on everything, then small reminders to challenge your own limiting beliefs can be helpful here, affirmations can be helpful too in this case.

No matter where the issue with your body stems from, it's not the body that needs fixing but rather the relationship with how you see things, how you think about things, how you experience feelings and the actions you take to address all of these.

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