“Body image.” These are two words that have recently become commonplace in the media, whether they are used positively…or negatively. When you put the words together, what do they really mean? Do they conjure feelings of security, love, and value, or do they inflict feelings of shame and a desire to alter oneself? When I interviewed some friends and colleagues, they told me, “body image is the feeling I get when I look in the mirror and how that makes me feel.” I think that is a good place to start because a lot of us tend to base our feelings about our bodies on what we see visually. In this blog post, I would like to share with you the clinical ways that body image is determined.

Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.
These feelings can be positive, negative or both, and are influenced by individual and environmental factors. Body image is determined by 4 factors:

1. How you SEE your body is your perceptual body image. This is not always a correct representation of how you actually look. For example, a person may perceive themselves as overweight when they are actually underweight.2. The way you FEEL about your body is your affective body image. This relates to the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction you feel about your shape, weight, and individual body parts.

3. The way you THINK about your body is your cognitive body image. This can lead to preoccupation with body shape and weight.

4. Behaviors in which you engage as a result of your body image encompass your behavioral body image. When a person is dissatisfied with the way he/she looks, they may isolate themselves because they feel bad about their appearance.

Now that you have your “body image cheat sheet,” does it give you a better understanding of how you perceive your own body and thoughts? Did any of the four aspects resonate with you?

I hope you have enjoyed this post and please feel free to pass this along to someone who would benefit from it!