Your Body Image, Your Self-Esteem
I had just spent an hour with my trainer Rusty lifting weights, run 35 minutes on the treadmill, taken my Dalmatian Lucy for a vigorous 40-minute walk, and then driven to the YMCA for an hour-long stretch class. Exhausted, I had to ask why exercise was ruling my life.
I feel better when I exercise, I rationalized. Taking a deep breath, I delved deeper and as I did, I began to see that my obsession with exercise was rooted more in vanity than any health benefits I hoped to receive. I had to admit that the primary reason I work out is to look good. The way I view my body determines in good part my self-esteem.
Self-esteem is the sum total of how much we like and approve of our self-concept; Webster's Dictionary defines it simply as "self-respect." In America these days, how much we respect ourselves may hinge in large part on how we look. Some psychologists claim most people's body image is so bad that having a bad body image is "normal." According to the American Psychological Association, 30 to 40 percent of Americans are somewhat unhappy with their appearance, and another 45 percent may experience anxiety or depression because they dislike their appearance.
In an era of gender equality, Americans' obsession with body image is almost equally divided among the sexes. One body-image study found that 55 percent of all women were dissatisfied with their physiques, followed closely by men at 45 percent.
So how can we feel better about our bodies and bolster our sagging self-esteem? I went to the Internet for answers and my research yielded these five suggestions.
ONE: Quit dissecting your body. People generally look at some small part of the body they don't like and stake everything on it. Instead of fixating on a flaw, take several steps back, squint your eyes and peer through your lashes. Look at yourself the way the world does, through a soft focus. The world sees the whole you, not just one feature. Love the whole you.