Column: Positive body image is important, for men and women alike

Positive body image can impact one’s self esteem. Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We have all heard the term “body image” and we also probably heard it in the context: “body image issues”. Instead of looking at the negative side, looking at body image positively promotes a more optimistic outlook on how you view yourself and encourages more people to accept and love themselves.

Body image is a main component in self-perception, and one’s sense of self is strongly influenced by his or her perception of how they look. Having a positive perception of our appearances is key to having a positive perception of ourselves as a whole. The question is: How can you love yourself if you don’t love the way you look? While external appearances are not the most important part of who we are, it is important to feel comfortable and happy with the way we look. Loving the person we see when we look in the mirror is key to positive self-perception. Furthermore, positive self-perception is key to building self-esteem and self-confidence, which have an undeniable importance throughout our lives. Our self-esteem, or sense of worthiness, is directly derived from how much we value ourselves, which is largely influenced by how we view our appearance. So, in other words, positive body image helps build self-confidence and a strong sense of worth. While it is clear that high self-esteem is beneficial in the job market and in our interactions with the outside world, it also has a tremendous effect on mental health. With low self-esteem comes negative self-perception, which creates, “for various reasons, including a tendency towards depression, anxiety or obsessive perfectionism , a habit of engaging in cognitive distortions, or because they have been abused or exploited they may not recognize these accomplishments and actions as meaningful.” It is important to recognize our own accomplishments and develop a humble sense of self-pride, and self-love.

Since self-esteem does not only pertain to women, body image does not pertain only to women either. We are often too quick to connect body image and body image issues to women, and society has wrongly labeled it as a “girl problem.” This label is harmful in two major ways. First, it normalizes body image issues in women and surrounds it with negative connotations. Second, it excludes men altogether. This label overlooks the fact that men ideally want to have a positive body image.

One way to promote positive body image and personal growth, is through exercising mindfulness. It is not as Zen as it may sound, mindfulness is simply awareness of our own thoughts, behavior, and desires. In the context of body image, mindfulness does not necessarily come in the form of mindful eating, but in the form of honestly examining attitudes about body image and self-perception.


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.