Body image can include (but is not limited to):
- The subjective image of how you see yourself when you look in the mirror or when you picture yourself in your mind
- Your beliefs about your appearance, including your memories, assumptions, and generalizations
- How you feel about your body, including your height, shape, and weight;
- How you feel IN your body
Negative body image
- Is a distorted perception of your body
- Can lead one to feel ashamed, self-conscious, anxious, and uncomfortable
- Can negatively impact your overall self-esteem, our interpersonal relationships, and our performance on any given tasks if we are preoccupied with negative feelings about our bodies
- Can impact your relationships with food, exercise, self-care, and self-expression
Positive body image
- Is an awareness of one’s body – you see your body as it really is
- Can lead one to celebrate and appreciate their body, and feel confident, and secure
- Can positively impact your interpersonal relationships
- Can improve one’s relationships with food, exercise, self-care and self-expression
Body Image and Gender Identity
Our relationships with our bodies are also often impacted by our gender-related identities, expressions, and socializations. For example, the pressure to conform to rigid gender norms and expectations can make us feel as though our bodies are “not enough” or deficient in some way. And this impact can be especially true for trans* and gender non-binary or gender non-conforming people, because media portrayals of bodies often reinforce a strict gender binary, leaving individuals who do not fit neatly into the categories of “man” or “woman” feeling marginalized and/or erased. This often leads to increased risk for mental health issues such as body dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression. If you are trans*, gender non-conforming, or questioning, please visit our Coming Out
page for more details about how the Counseling Center can support you.
Body Image and Pop Culture
Concerns about body image can be fueled by the dizzying number of images of “ideal” bodies on social media. At the Counseling Center, we encourage you to consider the following questions:
- Why do we think we should look a certain way?
- Where does our idea of the “ideal” body come from?
- How do “ideal” body images differ from culture to culture?
- Who decides what is beautiful?
- How do images we see in the media affect our daily lives?
- What messages do we receive through popular culture regarding body image?
- How do these messages influence how we feel?
Five Tips for Positive Body Image
One list cannot automatically tell you how to turn a negative body image into a positive one, but it can help you think about new ways of looking at yourself in a healthier way.
Decrease exposure to media that promotes limited examples of beauty and attractiveness.
Be Your Body's Friend
Don’t say anything to your body you wouldn’t say to a friend.
Your Body is a Temple
Treat your body with the love and respect it deserves! Make sure your meals are colorful and your body is recharged through appropriate sleep and exercise.
Wear clothing and accessories that make you feel good about your body and show your unique personality.
Stop Body Shaming Talk
Criticizing yourself creates a toxic environment. The way you talk to yourself matters!
Due to state licensing laws, students must be residing in Maryland to be eligible for Let’s Talk, assessment, and therapy services.
The Counseling Center located in Humanities 150 is open M-F from 8:30am until 5pm (EST) and closed when the university is closed. If you would like to make an appointment with a counselor, schedule an appointment online
, stop by our office, or call 410-617-2273.