Do you often find yourself comparing your body to that of others or don’t feel satisfied with what your body looks like? If so, you are not alone.

When we talk about body image, we take into consideration the feelings and beliefs one has about their own body concerning its shape, size, and other characteristics along with the sense of embodiment. This also influences our attitude and behavior towards our bodies. But how do we form these feelings and beliefs about our bodies? Societal expectations have a major role to play in this. Society has certain expectations from all sexes and genders in terms of skin tone, height, weight, clothes, and whatnot. There have been times when we have heard people saying, “oh! She is so skinny”. This highlights an act called ‘body shaming’, wherein either someone else or we pick out faults in our body and physical appearance. Shaming self or others for being too thin, too fat, too dark, too pale, having stretch marks or cellulite, among others, not having skin like porcelain. Although it is not limited to just bodily features, it includes choice of clothes, make-up, etc. Body shaming may be experienced by children, adolescents, adults, and elders alike. We may compare ourselves with other people, be it in real life or on social media. We may look at photoshopped and edited pictures of models, influencers, or even people around us and set unrealistic standards for ourselves, leading to disappointment and low self esteem.

Multiple studies have suggested that self-esteem is directly linked with body image. If body image is positive, self-esteem will increase. Many studies have found that low self-esteem and high body dissatisfaction concerning size or shape often go hand in hand regardless of age or gender. It has also been found that both men and women experience high levels of body dissatisfaction.

Body dissatisfaction may cause an individual to isolate themselves from other people, experience feelings of shame and guilt, and not take proper care of their bodies. Hence, if an individual has a positive body image, they would feel confident, have high self-esteem and more productive lives, have good interpersonal relationships, and have mental well-being. Disturbance or dissatisfaction with one’s self-perceived body image, on the other hand, may lead to low self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem, risk of developing eating disorders and social anxiety, depression, and may even lead to self-mutilation, self-harm and suicidal tendencies in some cases.

Here are some approaches you can use to start developing a healthier relationship with your body. You can adopt a ‘Body positivity’ perspective of thinking. Body positivity is when you accept, embrace, and love your body for what it is. Essentially, you feel good and comfortable in your skin. You can achieve this by practicing the following:
Health-focused behaviors
While it is okay to have goals and ideals for your body appearance, those goals should be realistic and taken up for the sake of self-improvement and fitness and not fulfill the expectations of society of achieving unrealistic body ideals. Engage in activities that promote a healthier lifestyle, not necessarily a thinner one.

Compliment other people
If you like someone’s hair? Tell them! Don’t hold yourself back from appreciating beauty in others.

Say no to comparison
Most of what we see online or in other forms of media is edited and photoshopped to look a certain way. Not everything you see on your screen or in fashion and beauty magazines is true. Another thing to note is that other people's beauty does not invalidate yours!

Gentle reminders
When you feel not so good about your body, remind yourself that while you don’t have to feel immense love for your body all the time, it’s still yours and is worthy of respect no matter what.