15+ Tips To Overcome Body Insecurity & Feel Good About Your Body Image

Jul 9, 202412 min
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Mave
Clinical Psychologist
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Understanding Body Insecurity: From Root Causes to Building Confidence

What is Body Insecurity? 

Body insecurity is our relationship with our body is a fundamental part of our well-being. No matter the shape, size or ability of our body, each one of us has a relationship with it which may come in the form of how we think of the body, whether or not we like it, how we use it, and how we feed it or look after it. 

This relationship with the body is our ‘body image’. Our body image is impacted by many things, including the messages we receive from the sociocultural environment we’re in, media and pop culture. These messages are often unrealistic and adhere to unrealistic beauty standards. As a result of this, some of us may struggle with our body image, becoming insecure about how we look. 

Examples of Common Body Insecurities 

One may feel insecure about any physical feature or feature of their body that deviates from the cultural norm of traditional beauty. Depending on the cultural definition of beauty one is surrounded by, one may feel insecure about:

  1. One’s weight - this applies to both, being overweight or underweight. The body positivity movement began as a movement to raise awareness about “fat-shaming”. 
  2. Body hair - while women may feel insecure about having too much body hair, men may feel insecure about not having enough
  3. Women may feel insecure if they’re either flat or heavy-chested
  4. Men may feel insecure about balding, not having enough muscle mass, not being tall enough and so on 
  5. One may feel insecure about the body’s functioning and level of ability or fitness

Understanding Body Image

As mentioned above, body image is the relationship you have with your body. This includes the thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviours you exhibit concerning the body.

These are the four dimensions of body image, and can be understood as follows: 

  1. Cognitive: Thoughts like, ‘The flab in my arm looks awful’, or ‘People don’t like me because I’m fat/dark/short’ form the cognitive dimension of body image. The cognitive dimension includes thoughts and beliefs you may have about the body. It includes core beliefs about the body, and if/then beliefs, wherein we tell ourselves things like, ‘If only I lose X kilos, I’ll meet the person of my dreams’. 
  2. Affective: The word ‘affect’ means emotion or feeling. As such, the affective dimension of body image reflects how you feel about and in your body. Do you feel fondness toward your body or are you repulsed by it? Do you feel confident in your body, or do you feel disconnected from it? Do you want to hide your body or are you comfortable in your skin? Such feelings reflect the affective dimension. 
  3. Perceptual: Our perception of the body may be different from how our body actually is. This is seen in individuals who have ‘body dysmorphia’ - those who feel they are overweight when they are actually not or feel they look unattractive when they objectively don’t.
  4. Behavioural: The behavioural dimension of body image encompasses the actions we take to manage our relationship with the body. This may include working out, following diets, and dressing up in a certain way that helps hide or accentuate body parts and features.
    and

Causes of Body Insecurity

The Psychology of Insecurity 

The word ‘insecure’ is commonly used, and indeed, it reflects a commonly experienced feeling. At some point in our lives, all of us have felt or will feel insecure about something or the other. But, what does it really mean to feel ‘insecure’? What is insecurity, really? 

Insecurity is that weird feeling we get when we feel not good enough, or inadequate in some way. The American Psychological Association defines insecurity as ‘a feeling of inadequacy, lack of self-confidence and inability to cope, accompanied by general uncertainty and anxiety about one’s goals, abilities, or relationships with others.’ 

This feeling of insecurity can pertain to any area of our lives. We may feel inadequate or lack confidence in our work, relationships, problem-solving skills, athletic ability, impulse control, ability to focus and yes, even the body. 

How Do Body Insecurities Start?

The variety of messages we receive from society and culture shape how we learn to look at our body. A silent scrutiny begins for many individuals as they enter puberty. Young girls are judged by the shape and size of their bodies. 

Young boys are judged based on the thickness of their facial hair, and the depth of their voice. In pop culture and media, we often see one body type being highlighted, making all others invisible. In India, beauty standards tend to include fair skin, long hair, and big eyes. These are mostly imposed upon women, with fewer beauty standards present for men. When one doesn’t fit into these beauty ideals, one may be expected to follow skin and hair care regimes, diets and workouts intended to bridge the gap. 

With the advent of social media, the messages around beauty standards have been amplified. Research has shown that among teenagers and young adults, the use of social media is inversely related to how confident they feel about their body, and a reduction in the use of social media has been seen to improve one’s body image. 

All these cultural practices and messages can make one feel inadequate and low in confidence about their appearance.  

Why Am I So Insecure About My Body? Understand the Root Causes of it  

As discussed, feeling insecure about one’s body may stem from the socio-cultural messages and expectations one learns about the ‘ideal body’. Sometimes, these messages are normalized to the extent that we don’t notice them. This is why it’s important to name the type of practices that can fuel insecurity about one’s body. Some of the reasons why one may feel insecure about their body include: 

  1. Family expectations about looking a certain way
  2. Being bullied or mocked by peers about one’s body 
  3. Excessive consumption of social media that promotes a certain body type 
  4. Negative experiences such as being isolated or excluded because of one’s appearance 

Social expectations around the “ideal” body or beauty standards stem mainly from two things:

1.Gendered expectations - Evolutionary psychology suggests that certain body types and shapes are considered to be more attractive than others. Bear in mind that according to evolutionary psychology, our behaviours and attitudes are geared toward reproductive behaviours, and that certain physical attributes theoretically make an individual more suitable for mate selection. This seeps into gender roles and expectations in the form of adhering to or striving for the physical attributes that are considered to be more “attractive”. 

2.Social media, film and television - Although the preferred body in mainstream media has evolved over the years, whatever the current standard of beauty is in pop culture tends to pose pressure on people. Many of us aspire to look and dress the way our favourite celebrities or influencers look and dress, but if the aesthetics we see in media are homogenized, they can be alienating for different body types.

Impact of Body Insecurity

Signs of Body Insecurity 

Feeling insecure about one’s body may show up in actions as well as one’s feelings and thoughts. Some signs of insecurity about one’s body may be: 

  1. Checking oneself in the mirror to make sure everything looks okay 
  2. Feeling self-conscious in certain types of outfits 
  3. Hiding certain body parts because they invoke feelings of shame or insecurity 
  4. Concerned about natural and minor fluctuations in the body 
  5. Avoiding socialising if one is not feeling good about their body 

How Body Insecurities Affect Mental Health

Our body image and mental health are deeply connected to each other. Feeling dissatisfied with one’s body can contribute to anxiety, low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and in some cases, even depression. Negative body image also has a strong correlation with eating disorders, and an overall reduced quality of ife. 

Do read: Types of mental health disorders

How Body Insecurities Affect Physical Health

Feeling insecure about one’s body can also impact physical health. One may avoid working out because they don’t feel confident enough to be seen by a trainer or people they consider fitter than themselves. One may follow fad diets that can cause harm to the body in the long run.

But, this is one end of the spectrum. On the other end of the spectrum are people who may become obsessively concerned with following a healthy lifestyle, never miss a workout and never eat anything considered to be ‘unhealthy’.

We may indulge in these behaviours in our quest for how to feel good about one’s body. But, both ends of the spectrum include unhealthy behaviours which can have long-term consequences for one’s physical well-being. 

Can Body Insecurity Affect Relationships?

If we don’t feel confident about our bodies, it can have an impact on how we show up in our relationships. The impact of body insecurity is most heightened in romantic relationships. Those who struggle with body image may feel self-conscious, leading to sexual inhibition. Sexual inhibition can show up as low libido and/or lack of pleasure and fulfilment. 

Overcoming Body Insecurity

How Can I Stop Feeling Insecure About My Physical Appearance? 

Overcoming body image issues can feel like a daunting task, especially if one doesn’t know where to start. But, there are many things one can do to stop feeling insecure about one’s body. Educating oneself about realistic body standards, reducing social media use, practising self-acceptance, adopting a body-neutral stance, and seeking professional support are some helpful strategies to start building a better relationship with one’s body. 

13+ Tips To Overcome Body Insecurity And Know How To Deal With To Improve Your Appearance 

Here are some actionable tips on how to feel good about your body: 

1.Challenge Unrealistic Body Image Thoughts

Our thoughts play a significant role in our overall well-being. Many of our thoughts and beliefs, however, can be biased or ill-informed. One common belief many people have is that there is only one type of body that is “beautiful”. Challenging such thoughts with facts and psychoeducation can help us build a more realistic relationship with the body, and improve body image. 

2.Identify Your Intrinsic Value

Remember that you are much more than your appearance. When we become hyperfocused on how we look, we may neglect other parts of ourselves that are inherently valuable. For example, your kindness, compassion, wisdom and intelligence have nothing to do with the way you look. These are things that make you intrinsically valuable. 

3.Practice Self-Compassionate Body Care

Body insecurity can sometimes make us treat our body with harshness. We may push ourselves too much, or not care enough about our body. Compassionate body care would mean that we accommodate our body’s needs, and build a sustainable and enjoyable body care routine. When working out, or managing your diet, think of sustainability and enjoyment. Is your routine something you can keep up with for a long time, or does it feel like a chore? Are you depriving yourself of foods you enjoy or are you striking a balance? 

4.Build a Supportive and Uplifting Social Circle

The journey of building a better relationship with your body is not easy. Surrounding yourself with a supportive social circle can be quite helpful, especially in times when things feel difficult. A supportive social circle would not criticise you for the way you look, and would cheer you on in trying to achieve your goals.

5.Develop a Critical Eye for Media Portrayals

Keep in mind that a lot of what we see in media is not real. Images are often photoshopped, videos use filters and colour correction, and makeup is often used to enhance one’s looks. Among celebrities and influencers, plastic surgeries are also common to manipulate the body. Even “natural” looks in media are often not natural. It’s important to not take media portrayals at face value. 

6.Embrace Body Neutrality for Self-Acceptance

Body neutrality is the stance that our bodies are much more than the way they look. Body neutrality encourages us to focus on the body’s functions and the experiences that our body enables us to have. Body neutrality also helps us accept that the body is not static and it changes with age, as well as on a daily basis, based on what we eat, how much we move, and how we feel. Adopting a body-neutral stance can help us accept our body, and practice more compassion toward it. 

7.Celebrate Your Body's Strength and Functionality

We experience life through the body. Our bodies help us move around, see, hear, taste, touch and smell things. It helps us perform challenging tasks, and show affection to our loved ones. Shifting our focus to what the body can do rather than how it looks can help improve the confidence we have in our body, as well as motivate us to take better care of it. 

8.Set SMART Goals for Overall Well-Being

SMART goals are:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic and relevant  

Time-bound 

Some examples of SMART goals for our well-being include getting 15-30 minutes of movement daily, eating a balanced diet as opposed to following fad diets, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. When setting your own SMART goals, think about overall well-being and sustainable practices. 

9.Appreciate the Beauty of Body Diversity

Despite homogenous media portrayals of beauty, in the real world, beauty is diverse. There are many shades of skin, different body proportions, different heights and hair texture. Beauty is subjective and diverse, and it would be a shame if we try to follow a rigid definition of it. 

10.Cultivate Positive Self-Talk Habits

Feeling insecure about one’s body can often be accompanied by negative self-talk. Cultivating positive self-talk habits can help change our relationship with the body. Some examples of positive self-talk include affirmations such as, ‘I am grateful for everything my body enables me to do’, acknowledging the body’s functions and strengths, encouraging healthy habits and practices, and accommodating the body’s need for rest and recovery. If you have a critical inner voice, positive self-talk can feel alien at first. With practice, however, you can change your inner dialogue to a more useful one. 

11.Use Empowering Language for Yourself and Others

If you struggle with body image issues, you may find yourself feeling disempowered or being caught in a loop of wondering, ‘why am i so insecure about my body?’ While gaining insight about why you feel this way is an important step, it’s also necessary to move beyond this and cultivate an empowering narrative. An empowering narrative might include trying to understand how you can feel better about your body, and taking actionable steps to improve your body image. 

12.Focus on Controllable Habits and Mindset

Whenever we embark on an inner journey of change, it’s important to keep our focus on things we can control, and let go of things we can’t. Your habits, thoughts, feelings and responses are in your control. How other people behave or respond to you is not in your control. Sure, you can provide feedback and try to set some boundaries, but how others respond to that is beyond your control. In the context of body image issues, this may mean that while you can work on self-talk, your own cognitive biases and beliefs, what others do or think is not something you can control. 

13.Engage in Activities that Promote Self-Care

Self-care activities like mindfulness practices, regular movement, balanced diet, proper rest and relaxation can help reduce emotional distress and improve confidence and self-esteem. By attuning to ourselves, we can also begin to understand our needs better, and tune out of the external noise about unrealistic beauty standards. 

14.Seek Professional Support for Body Image Concerns

Working with a mental health professional can help with coping with unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, low self-esteem and confidence, and improve our motivation to achieve realistic goals. If you struggle with body image issues, you can start your journey with one Mave Health’s qualified mental health professionals, here

15.Practice Patience on Your Body Positivity Journey

Remember that change takes time, and is not linear. As you embark on your body positivity journey, offer yourself some patience, kindness and compassion. Just like body image issues develop over time, working through them also takes time. 

16.Practicing gratitude, focusing on functionality, and challenging social media comparisons.

Lastly, keep in mind that the goal is to develop a sustainable, compassionate and healthy relationship with the body. Practicing gratitude, focusing on the body’s strengths and functionality and avoiding comparison on social media or offline are some practices that can help with sustainable change and growth. 

Conclusion

Body insecurity develops over time, and is often a result of the socio-cultural messages we receive about beauty standards. However, most of these messages are unrealistic, and because of their unrealistic nature, they can rob us of confidence. Cultivating compassion toward oneself, and shifting our focus to overall well-being rather than trying to fit into unrealistic beauty standards can help us immensely. But, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Professional help and social support can be useful for developing a healthier relationship with one’s body. 

Citations:

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Mave
Clinical Psychologist
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