A positive body image
We connect virtually with other people on social media, where we can share locations and pictures and post about our amazing experiences on holiday in the summer, and show our followers where we are right now – but these platforms also have a dark side. Perfect bodies here, flawless skin there – it’s enough to scroll through your Instagram feed to make you think that these perfect bodies are the norm. Whether it’s beauty filters or image tweaking, this does not correspond to reality.
But this may affect our feelings of self-worth as well as our body image. In this article we will discuss what is meant by a positive body image and we’ll also give you some tips about the healthy use of social media, particularly with regard to your body image.
“The more we try to be perfect, the farther we drift away from who we really are.”
− Brené Brown –
What even is a “body image”?
You have certainly heard the term “healthy body image” or even “positive body image” several times before. But do you actually know what “body image” actually means?
The term “body image” describes personal attitudes to and satisfaction with our own bodies and what they can do. The first foundations of body-image-related self-perception are laid as early as childhood and adolescence. Body image is an important factor for us, because it is a component of our identity and our concept of ourselves, among other things, but it is also part of how we integrate into society. How we perceive our bodies depends on different factors and, what’s more, varies from person to person. As a result, our body image does not always correspond to reality. For example, many people perceive their body as fatter than it actually is. In addition, how we look is closely connected to our feelings, for everyone. When we’re happy, this triggers more positive feelings within us, but if we are unhappy with our external appearance, we are more likely to experience negative feelings. The feelings that we associate with our bodies and how they look are connected to our thoughts and convictions. For example, it might be that we are unhappy with a particular feature of our bodies, because we wish it were bigger, or more muscular. These feelings and convictions consequently affect our behaviour. If we are not happy with a particular part of our bodies, this might even lead to us avoiding certain activities, because they could trigger an unpleasant feeling.
As you can see, the term “body image” is complex and depends on various factors.
A positive body image
Following this first approximation of the term body image, we’d also like to explain what, exactly, a positive body image is. It means nothing more than feeling good, and comfortable, in your own body. Neither weight, nor body size, nor body shape play any role in this. It means perceiving your body realistically and assessing it in largely positive terms, and seeing weaknesses as potential for personal self-development. The accompanying self-esteem means that you are likely to question, indeed reject, the unrealistic body ideals that you often see on social media, for example. However, body image is not set in stone, quite the opposite. It is influenced by our surroundings and can evolve accordingly. It is and remains important not to let anyone dictate to you what the ideal body should look like. You should decide for yourself how you view your body and what you think and feel about it.
The influence of social media
Photos, posters and displays are not just retouched in the advertising industry, but also on social media. A very one-sided beauty ideal reigns supreme, with very few exceptions. This distorted reality can negatively affect body image and self-esteem, particularly in young people, who are very critical of their own bodies during puberty anyway. Young people often look for examples to compare themselves to – and it is exactly these comparisons that are damaging to self-esteem. According to a 2016 survey by Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz (Health Promotion Switzerland), 58% of 13-16-year-olds think they are too thin or too fat. An alarming 93% of the 12-13 age group have an Instagram account.
Social media significantly distorts reality via the use of real-time filters and Photoshop. Perfect white teeth, flawless skin, prominent cheekbones and perfected silhouettes – to name just a few – can be conjured up with a click using a filter or apps. And the result is a practically unattainable ideal of beauty that is harmful to mental health. Below you will find some tips that we have put together to help you with how you approach social media.
Did you know that...
...manipulated, retouched photos have to be labelled as such in France and Norway? This is not just true for influencers and social networks, but also for traditional advertising. If it’s been tweaked, it must be labelled, regardless of whether it’s on the face or in the body shape.
But there is another way! Various bloggers have declared war on the beauty-filter-frenzy using the slogan “body positivity”. They are attempting to raise awareness of a positive body image and are also challenging these unattainable beauty ideals. This is setting an example and is intended to motivate young people to be more critical of these beauty ideals, and consequently to love themselves as they are.
Tips for a healthy approach to social media
- Don’t let social media affect you. It can alter images to make us see them as perfect. The result might be a distorted idea of the perfect body. Always keep this in the back of your mind when you’re active on social media.
- Find your own style by finding clothes that make you feel good. Changing fashions on the catwalk and in magazines do not suit everyone.
- Put your bathroom scales into the cupboard. The important thing is how you are and how you feel, not how much you weigh.
- Value your body for what it can do, not on how it looks.
You can find more tips here.
We recommend this documentary (in German)
In this documentary, the reporter investigates the issue of the relationships we have with our bodies, and encounters a wide variety of people, including some who do not meet the beauty ideal.
Reporter – Mein Körper und ich – Play SRF
Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz (2016). Positives Körperbild – Grundbegriffe, Einflussfaktoren und Auswirkungen. Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz. Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz. (2017). Positives Körperbild bei Jugendlichen in der Schweiz. No. 25. Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz.
Jugend und Medien (no date). Selbstdarstellung und Schönheitsideale. Available on: https://www.jugendundmedien.ch/themen/selbstdarstellung-und-schoenheitsideale
Rychen, B. (2023). Wenn die Psyche Herrscher über das Essen wird. PEP Prävention Essstörungen Praxisnah.