Learn about Body Image and Physical Well-Being
Body image is how you view and perceive your physical self, but it is just that—an image, a snapshot that only offers one perspective.
Where one person sees beauty, another may see ugliness or nothing special at all. That is perception at work. Sadly, our body image is often distorted by an external culture that places an inappropriately high value on appearance.
Youthful, airbrushed models are used to portray an impossible level of perfection so that people will feel the need to buy an endless array of products in order to attain that look. There is a lot of profit to be made on people’s body image insecurities, which is sad. In extreme cases, this can lead to tragic disorders like anorexia, bulimia or body dysmorphia.
Sometimes body issues stem from very real hardships, such as a severe accident, trauma, illness or handicap. These may have temporarily or permanently compromised what you are able to do with your body, profoundly impacting your overall well-being by limiting your activities and wreaking havoc on your mental/emotional states. For example, struggling for years with chronic illness can destroy your confidence, happiness and hope. If you were in a horrible accident, your body may have healed but your mind still carries the scars of fear, anxiety and PTSD. If you have a disability or handicap, you might feel saddled with a certain identity that has unfairly limited or defined you. And all of us, if we live long enough, will have to face the inevitable downslide of old age.
Understand that bodies, like all material things (especially those with moving parts) are temporary structures subject to breakdown. Forgive yourself for that! Just like a vehicle or a home, you can do your best to maintain it, but you can’t help that there will always be a roof leak or bad tire that needs attention. One helpful way to counteract body issues is to always come back to this keystone: reflect on all the things your body does for you, how it serves you in your daily activities. Are you able to do what you want and need to do? Focus on that rather than flaws. If you are able to run after your toddler, get up at 5 AM for work, complete a one-hour gym session, or go for a walk with a friend, that is far more valuable than how you look. If your body can’t do the things you want it to do, then you need to develop a plan to get there, and work hard at it. Or, if it’s simply impossible, whether because of aging or handicap or some other major impediment, then you must gracefully let it go and adjust your life accordingly. Find other activities that bring you joy, other hobbies or forms of work, other areas of your personality to develop so that your identity is not defined by physical limitations.
Ultimately, your body image is created by you, your own mind—it is merely a subjective perception of the actual physical reality. Develop a healthy body image by accepting yourself as you are, even as you gently but diligently work to stay in shape. Knowing you’ve tried your best will always bring peace of mind, and contribute positively to your ultimate well-being.