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

3 Ways to Bounce Forward

The idea we have for our life rarely matches up with the life we end up with.

Plan A is fantasy. Plan B is reality.

Growth is not a straight line.

Which is often a blessing in disguise.

Yet something we seldom realize in the thick of life.

How do we bridge the gap between expectations and reality?

How do we move on from what was to what will be?

3 Ways to Bounce Forward

1. Celebrate All You Have Overcome

Honour the trials and tribulations you have been through already.

Take pride in how far you have come.

All of it preparing you for what’s happening now.

For it is in our dark times that we discover our light. And it is in our pain that we find our power.

In the video below, I share the hard lessons I learned early on as a young psychologist experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue.

And how it laid the foundation for my work in resilience and positive psychology as a psychology professor and speaker.

When we learn how to become resilient, we learn how to embrace the broad spectrum of the human experience.

Jaeda DeWalt

2. Normalize Failure and Defeat

No one begins their journey at the top of the mountain.

We all have to earn our way up.

A universal human experience of try, fail, learn, repeat.

Ultimately understanding that failure is not bad, it is an opportunity to build character and strength.

In this video and article I describe all the failures that helped me discover who I was and what I was destined to become.

Failure introduced me to myself!

Some paths cannot be discovered without getting lost.

Erol Ozan

3. Adopt a Growth Mindset

Stay open to everything!

Openness shifts our mindset from fixed to growth.

One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to move on from what you cannot change.

Mantras and Affirmations

How we talk to ourselves matters tremendously. Especially during difficult times.

Re-imagine stressful moments as growth moments. Moving you one step closer to your dreams.

In this video I share my self-talk in the eye of the storm.

Chanting “I am expanding” as the rain falls.

Trust Your Journey

Stop Shrinking Yourself to Places You’ve Outgrown

Furaha Joyce

Energy and Time Management

What we give energy to impacts everything.

Thoughts. Emotions. Actions. People.

Some drain. Others invigorate.

Awareness is the first step to enhancing vitality.

The goal is to identify the source of energy leaks and peaks.

Where to start?

My recent interview on FM 105.9 The Region was designed to help people become more conscious of what depletes their energy and what lifts them up.

Rather than focusing on time, which is finite, I suggested to radio host Candace Sampson that we turn our attention to energy management, which in turn expands the amount of time we have.

Because when we feel energized, we can do twice as much in half the time.

Watch Interview:

What She Said Talk on FM 105.9 The Region

3 Energy Tips Shared:

Tip #1: Debits and Credits
(Energy Audit)
Daily Tracking System of Who and What Depletes You
Tip #2: Put a Time Limit on Negativity
(Stove Timer)
Conscious awareness of how much time with friends and family is spent on complaining (draining) versus solutions (energizing).
Tip #3: Energy is Everywhere
(Combat Boots Anchoring Exercise)
Energetic grounding rituals before interacting online.
*All 3 tips described in detail in both a) the August 20 energy video above and b) the extended September 1 podcast interview below.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you manage your energy throughout the day?
  2. Is energy something you consciously pay attention to?
  3. What is your energy level on a scale of 1-10 right now?
  4. What (who) drains you?
  5. What (who) energizes you?
Video of Blog Post: Click Here 

Acceptance: Your Peace Depends on It

Shift your focus.

Change your life.

Acceptance and peace go hand in hand.

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Consciously accept the good and the bad that exists in your life.

The rain and the sunlight.

The shadow and the light.

acceptance

Accepting what is does not lower the bar.

Quite the opposite.

Acceptance shines a spotlight on your inner strengths and endurance – independent of outer circumstances.

Strengths that were fostered in the eye of the storm. ☔️

Courage. Creativity. Wisdom. Perseverance. Faith.

This very moment in time.

And it’s that good feeling that motivates you to strive for more of what’s right for you. Instead of fighting against what’s wrong for you.

HOW DO I MAKE THE SHIFT?

Begin by accepting what is.

Moment by precious moment.

Your happiness depends on it.

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Applying this Post in Everyday Life

The 3 to 1 positivity to negativity ratio is one way of applying this post in your everyday life.

Specifically, each time you criticize an area of your life (or something about yourself personally), write down three positive aspects about the very thing you condemned. Hence, the 3 to 1 positivity ratio.

Journal Reflections DrAndreaDinardo.com

For example, each time you get down on yourself for not working during the COVID-19 pandemic, write down three benefits of sheltering in place. (E.g., more time for fitness, the space to try out new hobbies, meaningful conversations with family members). This daily practice helps to dampen the adverse impact of negativity bias, a type of cognitive distortion, common to all of us.

FOMO JOMO DrAndreaDinardo.com

Likewise, stop comparing your lowlights to other people’s highlights. You never know what’s happening behind the scenes in another person’s life. Good or bad. FOMO is “a story” fabricated in the mind based on snippets of observable behaviour (video below).

Reflection Questions

  1. How has COVID-19 eased (or increased) the pressure you put on yourself and the people around you?
  2. What does acceptance “feel” like physically in your body versus fighting “what is”?
  3. What have you surrendered lately? Let go?

You Can’t Add More to Your Life Without First Letting Go

The Power of Breathing Space: You are Safe

Every time we take a long deep breath, we are telling our bodies that we are safe.

Each breath connecting
our mind, body, and heart.

Bringing us back to present time.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Breathing Space

Breathing Techniques To Try

Follow Your Breath Become aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat. When you feel your thoughts drift, gently redirect your attention back to your breath.

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Stand Up Straight Posture is especially important for breathing. Being upright enhances the rhythmic movement between the diaphragm and ribs. Hold yourself straight. Shoulders back. Feel the power of your breath.

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Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing With each breath, think soothing thoughts (“I am inhaling calm”). With each exhalation, imagine that you are expelling your fears and worries (“I am exhaling worry”).

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Abdominal Breathing Breathe through your stomach. Start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first “empty” your stomach, then your chest.

Breathing Quotes - Dr. Andrea Dinardo

Balanced Breathing At the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while slowly counting “1, 2, 3”. Hold the air in. Then slowly exhale counting “1, 2, 3”.

Source: Scientific American

Reflection Questions

What brings you peace during uncertainty?

What gives you strength?

Breathing Video → Click Here

Emotional Freedom Technique for Social Anxiety & Imaginary Audience

DrAndreaDinardo.com

Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? 

Judged and scrutinized.

Like all eyes are on you and every potential error you make?

Everyone experiences this phenomenon from time to time, especially when trying out something for the first time.

Think back to the first time you gave a dinner party, swung a golf club, wrote a college exam, or posted your first blog online.
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Social Anxiety and Heightened Experiences

Individuals with social anxiety experience this sense of being watched (and thought about) significantly more than the average person.

Independent of skills and expertise.

Why is this the case?

The Imaginary Audience

One potential explanation is a psychological phenomenon called imaginary audience experienced frequently in adolescence.

  • A concept first introduced by social psychologists David Elkind and Erik Erikson in the 1960’s.

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Think back to how easily embarrassed you were as a teenager.

  • If you wore the “wrong shirt” to school, it felt like everyone was gossiping about you and your entire social life would end as a result.

Resulting in perpetual self-consciousness, distorted views of how others saw you, causing in a tendency to conform for fear of sticking out.

  • Limiting your freedom to express outside the norm for fear of collective banishment and reprisal.

What does the research say?

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Using the Imaginary Audience Scale as a Measure of Social Anxiety in Young Adults

Two studies explored imaginary audience phenomenon among college students.

Imaginary audience behavior was found to be related to measures of social anxiety, self perception, and personality.

Furthermore, imaginary audience scores were more strongly related to anxiety than abstract reasoning.

These results suggest that imaginary audience experiences that persist into early adulthood have more to do with social anxiety than with cognitive development.

Original Source: Click Here

DrAndreaDinardo.com
Simple Things on Repeat

The next time you imagine you are being watched, talked about, or judged by others, remember that imaginary audience IS AN ILLUSION heightened by social media, physiology (eg., lack of sleep), and overthinking.

  • When in truth, people are so focused on themselves (and their phones), that there is a 99% chance that no one cares what you are up to or how you are performing.

This is a very good thing!

CARPE DIEM

Today’s Freedom Mantra

Live like nobody’s watching. Love like nobody’s watching. Succeed  like nobody’s watching. Fail like nobody’s watching. Write like nobody’s watching!

Video of Post ⇒ Click Here

Ambitious Mama Podcast: Thriving Under Pressure & Posttraumatic Growth

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Ambitious Mama Podcast

Podcast Details & Show Notes

I was recently interviewed by wellness entrepreneur Christa Realba for her Ambitious Mama Podcast Series.

During the podcast, Christa and I discussed how posttraumatic growth and thriving under pressure are possible for all of us.

In different gradients, and at different times for sure. Depending on where you are on your journey.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo PTG Resources
Click Here for Helpful Workbook & Resources

We also discussed how we all have pain and adversity. It’s universal to all of us.

The key is to not get stuck in the challenge and let pain become your identity.

Dr. Andrea Dinardo Resilience

Instead, with support, encouragement, and the right set of resilience skills (this is what I teach), we all have the capacity to grow from difficulty.

To learn from it. To rise up and begin again when the time is right.

In addition to the podcast, resilience is discussed in more detail in my TEDx Talk and on my Psychology Blog, both called “Thriving Under Pressure”: https://DrAndreaDinardo.com

Listen to Podcast

  1.  Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/thriving-under-pressure-with-dr-andrea-dinardo/id1482282864?i=1000464930886
  2. Anchor FM: https://anchor.fm/ambitiousmama/episodes/Thriving-Under-Pressure-with-Dr–Andrea-Dinardo-ealagi
  3. Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/ambitious-mama/e/67169349

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Your Turn

Do you believe thriving under pressure + posttraumatic growth are possible for all of us? Why or why not? Tune into my latest podcast interview and let me know what you think!

Related Post: Teaching Resilience at School

Psychology on YouTube

My number one intention for becoming a psychologist and psychology professor has always been to help people live a better life, no matter their life circumstances. And since there are only so many hours in a day, I’m always looking for new ways to reach and teach as many people as I can. All at once, if possible.   

Which is why I created a Psychology Tips Playlist on my YouTube Channel that I contribute to often.

Psychology Thought for the Day

The purpose of my psychology YouTube Channel is to share key lessons from my three hour psychology lessons in as little as three to five minutes.

Giving people far and wide access to virtual classes, especially those who don’t have the money or means to an undergraduate education. I know how busy everyone is. And I love a good challenge! I also include videos of psychology interviews, workshops, and keynote speeches.

Book Speaking Services - Click Here

FOMO ANXIETY Simple Tips for Feeling Better

This post is for anyone experiencing FOMO. Particularly on a long weekend holiday!

Psychology Insight:

Holidays heighten social anxiety of every kind.

FOMO especially.

Consider these questions as you explore what’s going on below the surface.

1. Do you remember the first time you experienced FOMO?

2. How did you cope with the anxiety of missing out?

3. What if anything would you be willing to give up in your life in exchange for the fantasy of someone else’s life or experience?

4. What about your life do you cherish above all else?

Please share in the comments below, including your own strategies for handling FOMO. I’d love to know!

Savour this moment.

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Free Yourself 🦋

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EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE

1. What would you stop doing if you only had one year to live?

2. What would you start doing if you only had one year to live?

3. What do you need to let go of to feel a sense of happiness, well-being, and peace? 

4. What and who do you no longer want to be obligated to?

5. What joy do you wish you had more time for?

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CONTEMPLATION TIME

Take a long deep breath and meditate on your answers. You’ll be surprised at what your soul has to say.

YOU GET ONE LIFE.

Make it yours. 

Dear Readers:

This video is equally a note to you + me reminding us to live with discernment and wisdom. For not everyone in our life appreciates the limits of our time and energy. And that’s ok. For we are the magic wand. We have the power to make choices. We have the ability to overcome social conditioning. We have the authority to change what and who we want in our lives. What and who we give our energy to unnecessarily, repeatedly, unconsciously.

WE HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE.

This ^ is freedom.

Happiness: What deters it? What contributes to it?

The Happiness Class

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One of my favourite things to do as a professor is to stay after class and talk to students. They look at the world in a very unique way. Motivating me to think about psychology at a whole different level.

  • Especially when it comes to FOMO and happiness:

FOMO is an acronym for fear of missing out, which is a feeling of anxiety that manifests itself in various ways, from a brief pang of envy to more intense feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. Source: Macmillan Dictionary

Student Insights

In the video below I share the insightful questions my psychology students asked about social comparison and happiness today. Each question underscoring the famous quote:  

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Happiness, FOMO, and Social Comparison

FOMO and “measuring happiness” against each other’s’s lowlight reel (difficult times) and highlight reel (celebratory times) was also an active discussion on social media

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I would love your insights too!

How would you answer the questions posed by my students:

  1. What are 2 deterrents to happiness?
  2. What are 2 contributors to happiness?
  3. How is your happiness influenced by other people’s highlights and lowlights?
    • Social comparison and happiness was the crux of today’s class discussion and accompanying video.
  4. What simple changes can you make today to enhance your happiness?

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Optimism Bootcamp - Click Here

Laughter is an instant vacation.

What’s your favourite stress reliever?

Laughter is mine.

We live in a world weighed down by disaster, debt, and divorce. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been conditioned to believe that tragedies require tragic mindsets.

That serious issues demand serious attitudes. That hardships necessitate hardened spirits.

What consumes your mind consumes your life.

laughterstress

Change your view.

Thankfully we also live in a world overflowing with abundance, joy, and love. Same world. But we can’t see the good when we’re overwhelmed by the bad.

From overwhelmed to OVERFLOWING.

Making the shift from stress to strength can happen in a number of ways.

Laughter = instant stress relief. Taking a long deep breath runs a close second.

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Be kind to your mind.

Laughter breaks the panic spell. The not enough mindset. The woe is me attitude. The negativity downturn.

Laughter connects people in present time. Friends and strangers!  Think of the last time you laughed out loud with a cashier in the grocery line. (For me, it was last night ;.)

Laughter is an instant vacation to a better place – without the travel bills!

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Today’s challenge / opportunity:

Today’s challenge is to lighten up. To breathe deeply into what stresses you.

 To leave room for grace. To respond with a light heart and an open mind. To dance a little dance. To laugh with friends. To nourish your soul.

Ultimately to remember who you were – before life weighed you down. 

For it’s in our joy that we find our voice. It’s in our abundance that we embrace our authenticity.

It’s in our laughter that we save the day.

Catch your breath.

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Self-care is giving the world the best of you, not what’s left of you.”

Pause.

Be still.

Catch your breath.

Take a rest.

Practice self-care.

As often as you can.

Pause at the end of my video ⬆️ for 30 fun self-care ideas.

Do you practice daily self-care?

Please share in the comments below.

The Biology of Stress.

The Amygdala Hijack

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⊕ From Stress to Success ⊕

In this video clip of my keynote speech at the “You Can Do College Event” I share the biological origins of stress and anxiety with 300 high school students from Ontario, Canada.

In this segment, I also demonstrate simple strategies for dealing with high stress situations. Including deep breathing exercises, mindful awareness, and personal responsibility.

To learn more about the role of positive psychology in stress management & resilience, check out my TEDx Talk “Thriving Under Pressure” on the TED TALKS site.

You are a diamond in the making.


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It’s in the middle of a challenge where we need positive energy the most.

So let this be a gentle, encouraging voice reminding you that “You didn’t come this far, to only come this far”.

And that one day it will all make sense.

All the pressure will be worth it.

You are resilient. 

You are strong.

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You are a diamond in the making.

You sparkle.

You shine.

I see it.

And one day you will too. 💎

TEDx Playlist: Diamonds from Pressure

To change your life, change your habits.

 What’s the one habit you have been vowing to change for good?

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What are you waiting for?

The right time?

The right place?

The right person?

Today I challenge you to wait no more.

For now is the right time.

For here is the right place.

And YOU are the right person. 

Helpful Video: How to Embrace Change

Writing in One Word.

In One Word: Describe how you feel when you write.

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Writing makes me feel ALIVE!

For me, writing is all encompassing.

The words become the beat of my heart.

The words become the oxygen I breathe.

The words become all that I touch, feel, and see.

For me, writing is all encompassing.

I am the words. And the words are me.

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How does writing make YOU feel?

Related Post: Happiness in One Word.