What does positive body image actually mean?

Society nowadays encourages us to embrace our bodies and to commit to activities that boost our self-esteem and encourage self-care. Nevertheless, we all have those days where we experience a negative body image and feel down about ourselves. What does positive body image actually mean? Despite what you may think, it’s not actually the opposite of negative body image. Let me explain….

What does positive body image actually mean?

In psychology, we would define positive body image as:

  • Appreciation for your body and the functions that it performs
  • Accept and admire the majority of their body, including parts not in line with society’s ideals
  • Feel beautiful/handsome, comfortable, confident and happy with their body
  • They can be viewed as having an “outer glow”
  • Emphasise body assets rather than dwell on imperfections
  • They can interpret incoming information in a body-protective manner
    • Ie. they will internalise positive information and reframe or reject negative information received
  • Favourable opinions of the body
  • Respecting your body by attending to its needs and engaging in healthy behaviours
    • E.g. if you’re hungry you’ll eat and not threat over “I’ve eaten too much today I might gain weight”
  • This links to protecting  the body by rejecting unrealistic ideal body images portrayed in the media

If it’s still not very clear, here’s what positive body image isn’t:

  • Being highly satisfied with all aspects of appearance, people can still hate a certain part of their body they’ve just learnt not to emphasise that area and have learnt to counteract it with what they find positive about their bodies
  • It is most certainly not expressed as narcissism or vanity
  • Positive body image isn’t foolproof against all body image-related threats. People might still feel a bit down after seeing a very thin model in a magazine, however, they can overcome it and focus on the positives
  • It’s not linked to disengagement from self-care, sometimes, people may have a positive body image because they engage so much in self-care
    • E.g. regularly moisturising etc.
  • Another important thing to note is that positive image isn’t aided by frequent appearance-related compliments from others, confident and appreciation for one’s body has to come from oneself.

What does positive body image actually mean?

It could be said that positive body image is more body acceptance than anything. It’s really the start to loving yourself and who you are. There are other benefits though, which can only encourage us to seek positive body image even more:

  • Less depression
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours
  • Lower drive for muscularity
  • Greater intentions to protect yourself from UV exposure and damage
    • This might seem like an odd one, but in many places, the ideal is also to look slightly more tanned than is our natural tone. Some people go as far as to say that people who are too pale naturally look ill, which definitely doesn’t help the situation!
    • As a result, those with a negative body image might spend time in sun beds, applying darker foundation or even spending unhealthy amounts of time in the sun, whereas those who have a positive body image won’t do such thing as they’ll want to protect their skin from damage over appealing to the ideal

It’s easier said than done to achieve a positive body image, so if you struggle severely with a negative body image, there’s help you can seek (links I’ll leave below), however, if it’s just a matter of feeling self-conscious and loving yourself a bit more, here are some tips you can try to help increase just that!

  • Engage a little more in a technique called “Protective filtering.” This is where the body is interpreted in a self-protective manner,  so you learn to filter out negative information that’s potentially harmful to your body image.
  • This mentality is slightly linked to the next technique which is called “Media Literacy,” where you critically evaluate the media’s depiction of appearance ideals and try not to internalise the ideal but instead to ignore or reject it. I’ve written out some actual examples that participants came up with in an experiment, just so you get the gist.

– “The advertisements have clearly been digitally altered.”

– “The women in the adverts had hair and make-up done by professionals.”

– “The women aren’t a true representation of women in society.”

– “The women look the way they do as it’s their job.”

– “The women might not necessarily be healthy or happy.”

  • Another thing you can do is to engage with people who have positive body image and who don’t engage in fat talk
    • By doing this, you can avoid making comparisons between peers and there’s no “reference point” established for your group-weight-norm.
  • Unconditional acceptance of any defects you might have or areas you don’t like

What does positive body image actually mean?

Remember, your size, shape, look, hairstyle… none of that defines you. Let your personality and behaviour be the things to stand out at people and let that be what you put the emphasis on when you go out. Avoid opening the makeup bag but instead, open the door to people discovering your true self.

The Frugal Frenchie x

 

Links for help (including interesting articles to read on different treatments):

 

References:

  • Tylka and Wood Barcalow, 2015 :

What is and what isn’t positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition

  • Wood-Barcalow, Tylka and Augustus-Horvath, 2010 :

Positive body image characteristics and a holistic model for young-adult women

  • Gillen, 2015 :

Associations between positive body image and indicators of men’s and women’s mental and physical health

  • Andrew, Tiggemann, Clark, 2015:

The protective role of body appreciation against media-induced body dissatisfaction

  • Mirror exposure:

Delinksy et al. (2006) Mirror Exposure for Body Image                                                    Disturbance

  • Cognitive dissonance:

Stice et al. (2001) Randomised trial of cognitive                                                                    dissonance  programme

  • Acceptance and Commitment:

Pearson et al. (2012) ACT intervention for                                                                              body image and ED (eating behaviour)                                                                                      attitudes

Diary post: my first week of university

As it’s the first week of my university experience here in the UK, I thought I would make a little diary post about it. Hopefully, this will appeal not only to my old uni friends from abroad, who are wondering what it’s like but also for anyone who is just starting university this year.

Diary post: my first week of university

Monday 25th September

Today was my first day of uni. Surprisingly, my timetable seems quite empty with actually Mondays’ being one of the “longest” days of the week. Always bright and cheerful, I started the year with a statistics (or what they refer to as EMSA) workshop and a recap test.

Although I wasn’t happy with the surprise at the time, I’m kind of glad they did one as it made me realise just how much I’ve forgotten! It’s definitely time to get those stats notes out from last year! Compared to my last university, Maastricht, I found statistics much more understandable. Don’t get me wrong, they were fab over there and so intelligent, but here, they simplify everything, gave us a workbook with exercises and a step to step guide.

I really hope they don’t teach the whole degree like this as it may get slightly patronising, but for maths-related topics, which to say the least, were never my forte, this was definitely helpful!

In my introduction lecture, I met with another girl who had transferred from the University of Winchester, so it helped that we were in the same boat. During the summer, I manage to get in contact with a girl that’s already on the course so I hope to finally meet her at some point, despite not having the same schedules.

Tuesday 26th September

Not going to lie, although my lecture today was interesting, I think it’s very irritating being at uni for only an hour. An hour?! Plus, the lecturer ended 10 minutes early so it kind of feels a little pointless.

My motivation is definitely still high and it was about personality, a topic that greatly interests me, but I can imagine in 6 months time, coming in for just 50 minutes will seem a lot more of a chore.

Nevertheless, I finally put a name to my personal tutor too which was useful. I believe I have a meeting with him in a couple of days time so hopefully, he can answer my many questions about essays and the like.

Today he covered the humanistic approach to personality which talks a lot about free will, what our desires are (self-fulfilment, worth etc.) and different theories. Really very interesting! I found one theory in particular rather curious and this was the “hierarchy of needs” (Maslow, 1943), if you’d like more information or a post about it do let me know.

Oh also, I finally met that girl I’ve been chatting on facebook with! I met with her a little earlier before the lecture and she showed me around a little. From an outside glance, the library seems a little disappointing but the new building, called the fusion building, is absolutely gorgeous!

Diary post: my first week of university

Wednesday 27th September

Well, I’ll definitely remember Wednesday’s as “science day!” From 9am until 11am every week, I will be bombarded by two hours of neuroanatomy/biopsychology. This is essentially the scientific study of the biology of behaviour.

In this lecture, seeing as it was the first one of year 2, it covered mostly a recap of everything we should already know. From the basics of “there are 4 lobes,” to a slightly more in-depth look at the components of the hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain.

It was a nice, slow start and easy to follow and understand (a relief)! I always find it difficult to take notes in a more biological lecture as there are always diagrams attached to the slides which obviously can’t be drawn out but always seem relevant and important! Still, I think it went well for a first shot.

Thursday 28th September

I spent the majority of last night doing some extra reading for today’s seminar. This will be my first ever seminar (as the concept wasn’t really used in Maastricht) and I have no idea what to expect!

It ended up being quite a short but sweet summary of Wednesday’s lecture. It did feel a little like being in primary school again, what with working in pairs etc. but I’m hoping that once the difficulty increases, I’ll appreciate that a lot more.

This afternoon, I have a long break and then have a personality seminar. It’s with the same lecturer as Tuesday and afterwards, I’ll have a meeting with my personal tutor. It’s a good time to get some focused studying done and socialise with my new friend!

The personality seminar didn’t add anything new, it mentioned a few assessment techniques with role play, but apart from that nothing of value was added. The meeting ended up being a generic one about how to behave and what not but it ended up being over an hour because of a “plagiarism checker” sheet we had to complete and a worksheet on how to practice shortening sentences. I personally hate things like that so so close to dinner, I wasn’t in the best of temperaments!

Diary post: my first week of university

Friday 29th September

Today’s another long day. To avoid walking an hour, I have to get a lift almost an hour early at the same time as the sibling’s school run. This meant a 7:15 am wake up call for a 9 am lecture. It’s difficult haha.

I had a 9-10 lecture on personality again (we have 2 hours a week per topic) and then later a lecture on statistics, from 2-3pm.

The statistics lecture was one I was dreading in all honesty. Back in Maastricht, they would go step by step but only showing us the formulas as they went. Trust me, once you reach an equation that has 5 or more steps before even reaching the point you want, it gets so confusing!

The guy who ran this lecture spoke with no microphone. He was confident, passionate and it actually put a smile on his face. Through his waffling, I could really take in what he was saying, as well as keeping on track with the slides of the presentation.

I left that lecture hall and my first week on a high!

Do you remember your first week of uni? What was it like? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below.

The Frugal Frenchie x

Can you love others before loving yourself?

A tweet caught my attention the other day. At first, it seemed innocent, but upon further thought, I realised that this statement could actually be debated. As a result, here’s my response to this post and my answer to the question “Can you love others before loving yourself?”

Can you love others before loving yourself?

In my opinion, this statement, idea, principle… whatever you want to call it, could be taken one of two ways.

I think it’s possible to agree with this tweet if the “love yourself” part is expanded upon a little more. If “love yourself” means understanding what you deserve and understanding your worth, then I would agree with this 100%.

Can you love others before loving yourself?

I may be incorrect in saying so, as I’m just having the head of a psychology student on, but I think this is what many victims of domestic abuse struggle with. Whether you watch Dr. Phil or documentaries about the subject, you’ll often hear domestic victims becoming so manipulated that they thought it was normal, or that they deserved that treatment, or that their life was of no importance compared to their partners’. These victims had lost the love for themselves. They may have constantly been criticised about their appearance or beaten up for the slightest “mistake.” Do they really know how to love another when their idea of a healthy relationship and love is so skewed?

It takes an understanding of your self-worth to realise that that treatment isn’t what you deserve, you are better than that and how they are treating you. You deserve much much more. Is this maybe what the writer of the tweet had in mind initially?

After real consideration, however, I did see the negative implications of this tweet and that actually it may come across very offensive for many people.

“Love yourself” appeared very direct and with a literal meaning. I then thought that maybe it was talking about self-confidence, high self-esteem, loving your body and other things along those lines. Now I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t completely sure of what link this had with the capability of loving others? Surely loving yourself and loving others isn’t correlated or either mutually exclusive? It’s completely “person dependent.”

Can you love others before loving yourself?

Some people may have issues with their bodies or feel very uncomfortable in their own skin. That doesn’t mean that they can’t love their family? Or love their pets? Or love their partners? There’s no link! There are people with eating disorders that may be unable to be satisfied with their bodies, or unable to eat healthily, but that doesn’t mean they can’t feel the warmth or comfort from being in others’ company or caring for other people?

Similarly, this can apply to any other mental illness. Those with PTSD or depression or bipolar disorder… doesn’t mean there’s nobody they can love? If we go by the statistic that 1 in 4 (or some people say 1 in 3) people will have a mental health illness at some point in their lives, then that’s a lot of single people out there! It’s actually quite an absurd thought! If anything, those who don’t love themselves may love others more simply because of the joy they bring them and how good they make them feel!

What is your interpretation of this tweet? What would your answer to this question be? Let me know in the comments below, it’s an interesting topic!

The Frugal Frenchie x