1. the idea, conception or mental image one has of oneself;
2. a mental picture that depicts how we believe others see us (height, weight, hair color, gender, etc.);
3. things learned by us about ourselves from personal experience or by internalizing the judgments of others.
Basically how do we answer this question:
What do I believe people think about me?
Many women, including myself, struggle with their self-image. Self-image can be about our body image or our self-esteem, either way they are both related. If we have a low self-esteem it will affect how we see our body image. If we have a poor body image we probably have a low self-esteem. Because they are so closely related, by working on one we help both.
As I was preparing this column the research material seemed to go on and on… blog columns galore, endless books and YouTube videos. It was overwhelming and shows how rampant the problem is not only in the world at large but in the Christian church, too.
Here are some shocking female body image statistics:
- 7 out of 10 women get depressed and angry when looking at thin female fashion models.
- 2 out of 5 women would give up 3-5 years of their life if they could reach their goal weight.
- In the U.S. approximately 7 million girls and women experience eating disorders.
- 51% of girls between 9-10 yrs old say they feel better about themselves when dieting.
- 80% of women when asked are dissatisfied with their own appearance.
- 88% of girls admitted they feel a need to “look perfect.”
- Young girls are more afraid of getting fat than nuclear war, cancer or losing their parents.
Culture Beauty Standards Then and Now
- In 1917 the “perfect” woman was 5’4″ and weighed 140 pounds.
- Today’s average fashion model is 5’11” and weighs 115 pounds.
- Beauties of yesteryear like Marilyn Monroe would be considered fat by today’s standards.
- Today the average American woman is 5″4 and 140 lbs
Poor self-image can be the result of many things:
- Criticisms – Accumulated through childhood from parents or peers.
- Personality type – Type A personalities are prone to perfectionism and over achieving.
- Media influence – Television, magazines, billboards, Internet all push the “perfect look.”
The technical term for self-image used by psychologists is “self-schema.” A schema by definition is a diagram, plan, conceptual framework, or underlying structure. If our schema, our underlying structure is built on what we believe the opinion others have of us, what a shaky foundation that is!
Is their hope for change? As with most struggles the first things we must check is our inputs.
What ‘s influencing our relationships, our lifestyle, our relationship with God?
What’s holding our framework together today? The opinions of others or the Truth of God’s Word?
Are we maintaining our self-image at the cost of putting others down in our mind?
What image are we projecting, the happy mask or the reality of who God made us to be.
If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself! I challenge you to take note of every negative or anxious thought you have about your body over the course of one full day. You may be shocked at how mean you are to yourself. Stop the meanness! You deserve better than that.
Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to You, Lord, because You are my mighty rock and my protector. ~ Psalm 19:14 CEV
To reprogram our minds we must replace old thoughts with new ones. Take the anxious negative thoughts you have about yourself and turn them around. Create a series of affirmations and resolve to use them throughout the day. Print them on 3 x 5 cards and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Read them out loud with enthusiasm and positive emotions. I know it’s hard, believe me. But you can do it, and with practice it gets easier and easier! Here are a few that have helped me over the years:
- I like myself!
- I am a positive person and I have a positive life.
- I am loved by others, valuable, smart and creative.
Remember, God doesn’t make junk! When He created man and woman God said, “It is good.” When we put ourselves down or wish we looked differently we are insulting the Creator of this universe. He made us the way we are for a reason. If we all looked the same what a boring world it would be!
How to Love The Body You Have Today
- Silence your inner “mean girl!”
- Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Celebrate your body for the marvelous things it can do.
- Stop weighing yourself. Focus on how your clothes fit and how you feel.
- Surround yourself with people who have healthy relationships with their bodies.
- Nurture your inner self with bubble baths, massages, prayer, meditation, inspirational reading.