Psychology of Body Image: Don’t Believe Everything You Think

Perception versus Reality

I was motivated to write this post and film an accompanying video after witnessing so many students overwrought by thoughts of inadequacy about how they looked.

In reality, there was no doubt that they were healthy and whole, but in their minds, they believed the opposite.

A phenomenon heightened by imaginary audience and social anxiety, which reaches its peak in adolescence.

Imaginary Audience Video: Click Here 
Body Image Video: Click Here  

Psychology Research

What are the underlying mechanisms?

These articles provide insight into why body dissatisfaction continues to be an issue, despite countless campaigns to turn the tide.

Article 1

The Image in the Mirror and the Number on the Scale

Link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3610322

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Article 2

The Effects of Social Media on Body Image and Mental Health

Link http://lifesciencesjournal.org/2020/02/the-effects-of-social-media-on-body-image-and-mental-health

Article 3

Body Weight and Self-Perception are Associated with Depression

Link Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

Psychology Homework

The First Step Towards Change is Awareness

1. Reality Testing

The 15 questions below challenge cognitive distortions and perceptions using reality itself.

This inquiry is not limited to body image and weight and thus can be applied to areas of life where you find yourself overthinking and ruminating.

Reality Testing Homework

Source: Challenging Cognitive Distortions

  1. What evidence do I have to support this thought or belief?
  2. Am I assuming the worst?
  3. Am I overgeneralizing?
  4. What would I say to a friend in this situation?
  5. How can I test my assumptions/beliefs to find out if they’re accurate?
  6. Do I have a trusted friend whom I can check out these thoughts with?
  7. Is this thought helpful?
  8. Am I making assumptions?
  9. How can I test the accuracy of this thought?
  10. Are there exceptions to these absolutes (always, never)?
  11. Is it really in my control?
  12. Can I look for “shades of gray”?
  13. Am I making this personal when it isn’t?
  14. Am I holding myself to an unreasonable standard?
  15. Are there other ways that I can think about this or myself?
Related: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

2. Community Discussion

In addition to spending time in self reflection and reality testing, it is important to open up the conversation to the community at large.

In doing so we move into collective problem-solving, empowering solutions, and public health education.

Podcast Interview

Be Yourself: Happy. Healthy. Hopeful.

Turning Self-Criticism into Self-Compassion 

In this episode, Stephani and Dr. Dinardo speak about what positive psychology is, turning your perceived flaws into strengths by moving from self-criticism to self-compassion, posttraumatic growth and how adversity can be beneficial to us, boundaries around social media use, the magic of prevention work and maintaining hope”. Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA)

Listen to Interview: Click Here
Watch Video of Post: Click Here