We often hear the words "body image" being tossed around, but do we know what this actually means or has this become the latest buzzword?
Our in-house therapist at Pearl Wellness Practice, Kira Denney, describes body image as a combination of the thoughts and feelings that we have about our body.
Body Image Basics
Body image may range between positive and negative experiences, and one person may feel at different times positive or negative, or a combination of both.
Body image is influenced by internal (e.g. personality) and external (e.g. social environment) factors.
There are four aspects of body image; perceptual, affective, cognitive, and behavioral. The National Eating Disorder Collaboration broke each of them down and can be better understood below.
The way you see your body is your perceptual body image. This is not always a correct representation of how you actually look. Discrepancies between perceived and actual body size or shape can contribute to body dissatisfaction and potentially lead to unhealthy behaviors like dieting or compulsive exercise.
The way you feel about your body is your affective body image. Feelings may include happiness or disgust but are often summarized as the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you feel about your shape or weight. Affective body image can influence self-esteem, mood, and mental well-being. Positive affective body image is associated with better mental health outcomes and higher quality of life, while negative affective body image can contribute to anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and eating disorders.
The way you think about your body is your cognitive body image. This can lead to preoccupation with body shape and weight. Cognitive body image can shape behavior, influencing choices related to diet, exercise, and more. Unrealistic or negative cognitive body image can contribute to the development of disordered eating habits, eating disorders, and an unhealthy relationship between the mind and body.
The behaviors you engage in as a result of your body image are your behavioral body image. When a person is dissatisfied with the way they look, they may isolate themselves or employ unhealthy behaviors as a means to change their appearance.
Beyond Body Image
Understanding the four different aspects of body image is important for various reasons, as it provides a more comprehensive view of how individuals perceive and relate to their own bodies.
Once we understand body image, we can allow more space to heal the relationship between mind, body, and soul.
If you or a loved one are looking to make strives towards your relationship with body image, we encourage you to check out Redefining Confidence From Within.