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What is Body Image?
Body image is how you feel and what you think when you look at yourself. It’s also how you imagine other people see you.
How you feel about your body and all of its parts — your build and your legs, nose, stomach, the color of your skin, and the color or texture of your hair, for example — plays a role in your body image. This also includes your sex organs — the vagina and vulva, breasts, or penis.
What Shapes Our Body Image?
We do not develop our body image all on our own. The people around us and our culture strongly influence it. We get both positive and negative messages about our bodies from family and friends all the time — starting from when we’re very young. For example, we may develop a love of exercise and a sense of being strong and capable if our parents share their own enjoyment of physical activity with us. On the other hand, we may develop a negative body image if our parents criticize the way we look.
We also get messages about body image from television, magazines, films, and other media. Many of the beliefs we have about the way women and men “should” look come from the models and celebrities we see in the media. But models and celebrities do not look like most people. For example, on average, women who are models have very different builds. They weigh 23 percent less than women who are not models.
All we have to do is look around — the bodies in the real world are much more diverse and unique than those we see in the media.
What is Positive Body Image?
People who accept the way they look and feel good about their bodies most of the time have a positive body image. Their appearance may not match their family’s ideals or the ideals in the media. But they have learned to be proud of the way they look.
You do not have to be thin or tall or have any other specific physical traits to have a positive body image. It does not matter what you look like from the outside. Having a positive body image is about how youfeel about the way you look.
Part of having a positive body image is thinking about the way you physically feel and what your body can do — not just the way you look. For example, people who can easily climb stairs may have a better body image than people who struggle climbing them.
Having a positive body image also means that you see yourself as you really are. Many people with a positive body image know that certain parts of their body may not be the same as someone else’s, but they accept, appreciate, and even love the differences.
People with a positive body image also understand that how they look does not determine their self-worth.
Source: Planned Parenthood: Body Image