It’s time to dive into a deeper level of how mental health affects body image.
The way we view our inner being is directly related to the way we view our outward appearance.
As I was doing research on this topic I came across so many different websites that touch specifically on these key aspects. One of them, Here to Help, has a diagram to explain and connect mental and self-esteem to body image. Generally speaking, it supports what I have experienced.
Mental Health – Body Image – Self-Esteem
That’s their diagram. I personally like to think of self-esteem like a pizza (because pizza makes everything better), every slice counts. A slice for mental health, a slice for body image, a slice for emotional stability, each slice has a purpose and needs to be there to make one full pizza of self-esteem.
The mental picture of body image happens early on. It is the first thing that starts to go a little off once you have started thinking about yourself and your appearance in a negative way. It can even happen before looking at yourself in the mirror. The thoughts are most likely not even about your body. They can be anything that puts you down in anyway shape or form.
At first, some thoughts might be:
“I’m always messing up” “I’m not good at anything” “if this doesn’t go well, I’m a big failure.”
These types of thoughts can easily lead to the onset of negative thoughts about your body,
“I’m so fat today” “this skirt used to fit me well, what happened?” “why are my hips so wide?” “I want a skinny waist” etc.
The first step in fixing this issue is understanding the way you are made, that your life is purposeful and it has true meaning.
I started to have some of these thoughts as I grew up and went through high school. I played volleyball religiously and although I was super fit (some would say), I found every little thing I could to critique about myself. I was super hard on myself, either with my outward appearance or just mistakes I would make as I played on the court. I always felt like I was a little chubbier than the other girls on my team, I was never happy with how my figure looked even though I was so athletic and played volleyball every day. I also would make several mistakes on the volleyball court, as anyone does. I either would miss a serve or the hit I had didn’t turn out the way I wanted to. I was so hard on myself that I would get so worked up about it and would cry when my coach took me out due to my various mistakes. These thoughts really screwed up my overall mentality. Instead of saying “okay I’ll get the next one” I would think it was the end of the world. Being so hard on myself along with the negative body image I had of myself, made that high school volleyball experience very difficult for me. I could have excel more if I wasn’t so hard on myself and every mistake I made as a player, or I could have enjoyed more moments with my teammates if I wasn’t constantly comparing my body to theirs.
The only way I was able to get over all of these negative thoughts was by understanding God’s perspective about me,
- I am unique
- beautifully made
- He has given me talents and gifts
As a result, I started giving myself pep talks and reminding myself that I will fail and…that is okay! Once you begin to accept this, mentally you are stronger, you don’t jump to conclusions, you make the most out of every situation and if you mess up, oh well! Life is full of second chances. The stronger you are in your thought-life, the healthier view you will have on your body image and the more positive your self-esteem will be. It’s crucial to notice these things way ahead of time and to practice shifting your thoughts. The more we respect ourselves and our inner being, the more we can respect our bodies.
There is still so much I am learning about myself mentally and how my thoughts will always affect my reaction towards myself and then to others. It’s a journey, a process that I will be on as I go through life and practice grace, love, and respect for myself. The most important thing we can do is to remember how precious our specific lives are with the people around us, who love, support and care for us. I hope that this post and the previous one help anyone out there to look at body image with a different perspective and know that you are beautiful, you are unique and you were made for something more.