What is Body Confidence and How Does it Affect Our Mental Health?

Body positivity and confidence

Perhaps one of the most liberating feelings is to completely accept one’s body, without any sense of inadequacy or dislike. However, this is becoming more and more difficult to do in a highly consumerism-driven world.

Global standards of what a ‘good body’ looks like, are perpetuated through images in popular media and advertisements. The result is that the current generations are flooded with feelings ranging from dissatisfaction, shame, and even hate for their bodies.

If you look back in history, the standards for beautiful and good-looking have evolved over the years and is different in each part of the world. Even sex symbols and icons from movies or media look different every decade.

Do you ever wonder why that is?

There is always something that isn’t good enough. It could be anything: one’s shape, size, skin colour, features. And it even extends to the sex organs. It’s a never-ending loop of dissatisfaction that actually affects us at a deep level.

Tired fat man thinking over weight problems, desire to lose weight, gym workout
Trying to adhere to standards of good looks set by popular culture and media can be very painful

However, this situation is reversible with the right perspective on how to look at our bodies with confidence.

In this article we discuss some crucial perspectives related to the body which we hope can help our readers develop a renewed relationship with their bodies.

What is ‘body confidence’?

Body confidence defines the relationship we have with our bodies. It is about complete acceptance of our bodies and of those around us. This can help with our overall self-esteem and enable us to be who we truly are, to feel proud, and be oneself.

It’s critical to remember that being physically healthy requires mental health as well.

Body confidence refers to the following key ideas:

  • Body confidence throws a challenge to the false beauty standards of society
  • However, body confidence is not about being unhealthy and not caring about the body
  • It encourages us to develop self-love and have a realistic relationship with our bodies, regardless of our shape and size
  • Body confidence doesn’t mean merely tolerating our appearance; it means being more accepting of the way we look
  • It encourages us to look beyond our weights, shapes, and sizes

Let us look at two important body-related movements to understand more.

The body positivity movement: How it all started

positive body image
Body confidence can ease a lot of strain on our mental health

The concept of body confidence has a deep connection with the first body positivity movement from the 1960s. The movement focused on ending the fat-shaming culture, bodyweight discrimination, and boosting self-confidence. It promoted the notion that all bodies are beautiful and should be celebrated.

Recently, in 2012, body positivity again grew in popularity as a hashtag (#bodypositivity), used by supporters of the movement. However, body positivity has become reduced to a buzzword in today's era.

There is certainly greater awareness about body positivity, and we now see a lot more diversity in representation of all kinds of bodies than before. However, there is still a long way to go for the body positivity movement.

The movement is more popular in the west, and even there it is not completely inclusive of all ethnicities, and plus-size people of all sizes and kinds of bodies. Further, the movement has become appropriated by popular brands, social media, and cinema and has become commercialized.

Body positivity versus body neutrality

The misconceptions and confusions of the body positivity movement were then countered by the body neutrality movement.

While body positivity asserts that all bodies are beautiful, body neutrality says that we should focus more on what our body can do for us rather than how it appears.

Body neutrality allows us to look at self-worth and beauty as two different things. One doesn’t have to have a so-called ‘perfect body’ to feel positive. Instead, we should be thankful for the positive things our bodies can do for us. After all, even the smallest action like breathing is crucial for our physical well being.

Body neutrality asks us to recognize that we are blessed to have a perfectly functional body. We shouldn’t put stress on ourselves to feel good about our appearance. Instead, we should focus on eating healthy, thinking positively, and looking after our bodies.

Body confidence and mental health

When we discuss body confidence, we usually think about our physical appearance. However, body confidence has a deep connection with the mind. The way we perceive our bodies affects our mental health too.

For example, when we’re not confident about our appearance and see our reflection in the mirror, and our immediate thought is “Gosh! My arms are too thin” or “My tummy is too big”, these negative feelings and thoughts impact our mind in significant ways.

This is the beginning of us judging ourselves and believing that our bodies are not good enough.

Young people, mostly teenagers suffer the most from lack of self-confidence and negative body image, but that doesn’t mean that older people don’t suffer from it too.

Social media, movies, magazines, and peer pressure play a pivotal role in people developing a negative body image from a young age. Photo-shopped images of models and actors, wearing make-up, clicked from the most complimentary angles become the standards of comparison internalized by people.

Before-after processing. Woman before and after retouch. comparison portraits with make-up
We are constantly bombarded with false images of perfection; hence we end up comparing ourselves with unrealistic standards

Below are some key dangers of a poor body image.

  • A poor body image not only impacts our self-confidence, but also leads to complex issues such as mood disorders, eating disorders, and personality disorders
  • A negative body image can also lead to depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal
  • In extreme cases it can even fuel suicidal thoughts
  • Owing to the low-self esteem negative body image leads to it can impact our relationships with our peers, friends, and family; this is because we begin to believe that we don't deserve love, affection, and compliments

How to practise body confidence?

The only way to gain self-confidence is by learning to accept our bodies just the way they are. We should realize that we can exercise, eat healthy, and still not have a ‘perfect body’ because there are so many factors to how we look including environmental and genetic influences.

Body neutrality is preferable to body positivity.

Instead of judging our appearance, we should appreciate what our body can do for us. Hence, we should learn to accept and love our body while treating it like one of our best friends.

When your brain starts negative talk about your appearance, ask yourself: would you talk the same way with a friend that you care about?

We often forget to give our body the respect it deserves. Even if our friends or family say negative things about our body, we must learn to feel grateful for our bodies. Create boundaries with those people who say things like this, and if needed, manage the amount of time spent with them. Are they people you really want in your tribe?

Final thoughts

People of all sexes, genders, sizes, and ages often believe they are less because of their bodies. However, we should realize that one can be the ideal size and still have health issues. Everyone faces challenges with their body at different times in their lives.

Body positive portraits set - hand drawn flat style vector design concept illustration of men and women, male and female figuers
It’s important to strive for a society and world where different kinds of beauty are celebrated
It’s important to remember that no matter how much we try, we can never achieve the perfect body, because it does not exist.

Finally, one must understand that we are more than just our body. We are more than our shape and size. Our person-hood and qualities go beyond our bodies.

Focusing on those aspects rather than giving over-importance to our bodies will go a long way in helping us lead fulfilling and balanced lives.

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Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only. Lokyatha has observed best effort due diligence and all health related content is reviewed by a trained professional before publishing. However, this should not and can not replace personalized medical help. Please refer to a professional in all cases of need.