I don’t like my body 😕

7 min read

Body dissatisfaction is a common yet emotionally distressing sentiment based on a negative perception of one's own physique, encompassing psychological and emotional dimensions. It is to be taken seriously as it can lead to severe mental health issues.

If you or someone you know is experiencing this emotional state, it is essential to understand the causes of this discomfort. Although a challenging process, it will help in finding the best solution for overcoming it.

Three major factors contribute to the development of a negative self-image
1. Sociocultural influences: media pressure and sociocultural norms can lead to negative body image. Unrealistic beauty standards, often promoted in advertising and social media, play a significant role (Grabe and al., 2008). According to Jiosta and al.'s study (2021), there is a link between the frequency of comparing oneself to others on social media and the level of body dissatisfaction.

2. Psychological factors : negative thoughts about the body often stem from psychological disorders. Low self-esteem, perfectionism, and comparative tendencies foster body dissatisfaction.

3. Adverse life experiences : illness, harassment, mockery, or negative comments about one's appearance can result in a degraded self-image. For example, young people with chronic illnesses speak less positively about their bodies than their healthy peers (M. Pinquart, 2013).

Three populations are more vulnerable to experiencing body dissatisfaction

1. Adolescents : this period of change can intensify insecurity related to physical appearance, making adolescents particularly susceptible to aesthetic standards' influence.

2. Young women : exposed to intense aesthetic pressures, they are at a higher risk. Research, such as that of Hargreaves and al. (2004), emphasizes the high prevalence of body dissatisfaction among young women.

3. Individuals with predisposition : those with family histories of eating disorders or mental health issues may be more sensitive.

This state of being has an impact on health

1. Mental health : research underscores the links between negative body image and symptoms of depression (Soares Filho, 2020). Body dissatisfaction can also lead to anxiety and severe eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

2. Physical health : extreme behaviors to change the body (excessive exercise, dangerous diets, etc.) pose physical risks and can be highly detrimental. A study by Gonçalves and al. (2023) identifies a higher prevalence of risky health behaviors, including tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, among adolescents who report body dissatisfaction.

3. Behavioral : this can lead to social avoidance, withdrawal from activities, compulsive use of mirrors or scales, and a constant search for validation.

How to better live in your body

Working to identify and deconstruct the reasons behind our negative perception can help reconnect with our bodies. These reasons are diverse, ranging from understanding past mistreatment to recognizing how the need for social recognition led to overvaluing aesthetics.

It is also crucial to dedicate time to cultivate inner balance. Learning to release the pressure exerted on physical appearance can be liberating. Some may find comfort in accepting that emotional fluctuations are a natural part of the human experience, while others understand that there is no absolute obligation to unconditionally love their bodies. The key is to allow oneself to step back from this relationship with the body. A fulfilling life in one's own body often requires a revaluation of inner well-being and a deeper understanding of oneself.

Several practices can help reconnect with oneself

1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies (CBT) : aimed at challenging and changing negative thoughts and beliefs about the body to foster a more positive relationship with it. They have shown promising results.

2. Support groups : these can offer empathy and strategies for cultivating a positive body image. Social support helps regain self-esteem.

3. Meditation : mindfulness practice can help accept the body as it is. Gopan and al.'s study (2023) suggests that mindfulness can be beneficial for improving body image.

Additionally, positive interventions can help avoid such situations in the future

1. Promoting diversity in daily life : reflecting on our attitudes and behaviors, even if not directly affected, can contribute to creating a more inclusive and harmonious society.

2. Awareness campaigns : valuing media, platforms, and initiatives that offer more diverse and realistic representations of the human body can contribute to changing sociocultural norms. Initiatives such as #BodyPositivity and #BodyNeutrality on social media have questioned female injunctions and emphasized the need for visible body diversity.

3. Body image education programs : encouraging interventions in schools and universities to promote acceptance of body diversity.

Experiencing this situation can generate significant distress, and embarking on this journey toward a better acceptance of one's body may seem unattainable or prove to be challenging. If this is your situation and you don't have a therapist, feel free to discuss it with your doctor. They can guide you toward solutions to support your process.

Body dissatisfaction is a complex problem rooted in society, culture, and individual experiences. Scientific studies highlight the extent of this issue and identify the most vulnerable populations. The significant impacts on mental, physical, and behavioral health are substantial, but positive approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies, educational programs, and group support, show promising results. By encouraging more diverse body representations in the media and reflecting on our behaviors, we can also contribute to creating an environment conducive to self-acceptance and acceptance of others.