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  • Writer's pictureAlayna Dorfman

The Role of Social media in Body Image Issues and How Holistic Therapy can Help

Updated: Jul 9

Body image is a crucial aspect of our mental and emotional well-being, shaping how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world. It encompasses our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes towards our physical appearance, and can significantly influence our confidence, self-esteem, and overall happiness. When we have a healthy body image, we are more likely to feel empowered, confident, and comfortable in our own skin. Conversely, a negative body image can lead to severe psychological distress, affecting every aspect of our lives.

At Be Your Best Self & Thrive, a holistic therapy practice in St. Petersburg, FL, we specialize in addressing self-esteem issues, which are closely related to body image concerns. Our mission is to provide compassionate and comprehensive care tailored to each individual's needs, helping them overcome a negative body image and achieve a healthier, more positive self-view. Our team of experienced clinicians employs a holistic approach, focusing on the mind-body connection to foster deep, lasting healing.

This blog explores the concept of body image, the profound impact of social media on our self-perception, and how the holistic therapy services at Be Your Best Self & Thrive can help you cultivate a positive self-image. By understanding the root causes of body image issues and learning effective strategies to combat them, you can embark on a journey towards greater self-acceptance and mental well-being.

Key Take-aways for Body Image Issues

  • Body image is defined as the thoughts, perception and attitudes you have about your physical appearance

  • Factors that influence body image include personal experiences, cultural standards, and social influences. 

  • A healthy body image involves feeling comfortable and confident in your skin, while a negative body image involves a distorted perception of one’s body.

  • Social media can affect body image by exposure to negative content, accessibility to comparison, and creating a need for validation through likes and comments.

  • Be Your Best Self & Thrive can help treat body image issues through holistic approaches.

  • These holistic approaches involve meditation and mindfulness, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy, and more.

Be Your Best Self and Thrive Counseling provides individual therapy and couples therapy mental health services in St. Petersburg, FL. As a holistic therapy practice, our holistic therapists specialize in a variety of areas such as anxiety treatment, depression counseling, trauma counseling, highly sensitive people (HSP) and loads more. Schedule a free consultation with one of our incredible therapists in St. Petersburg, Fl!

Understanding Body Image

Body image refers to the thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes you have about your physical appearance. It is not just about how you see yourself in the mirror but also how you feel about your body and how you believe others perceive you. This self-perception is shaped by a combination of personal experiences, cultural standards, and social influences. From childhood, individuals receive messages about body ideals through family, friends, media, and societal expectations. These messages can significantly impact how we develop our body image.

Factors Influencing Body Image

  • Personal Experiences: Events such as teasing, bullying, or receiving compliments about appearance can deeply affect one's body image. Positive reinforcement about one’s appearance can boost body confidence, while negative experiences can lead to lasting insecurities.

  • Cultural Standards: Different cultures have varying standards of beauty, which influence individual perceptions of body image. These standards often prioritize certain body types, skin tones, and features, creating pressure to conform.

  • Social Influences: Friends, family, and peers play a critical role in shaping body image. Comments and attitudes from these groups can either reinforce positive body image or contribute to negative self-perception.

Healthy vs. Negative Body Image

A healthy body image means feeling comfortable and confident in your skin. Individuals with a healthy body image appreciate their bodies and feel proud of their unique physical traits. They understand that their self-worth is not solely defined by their appearance.

Conversely, a negative body image can involve a distorted perception of one's body. However, it's important to recognize that this perception is not always distorted; it can also stem from actual physical ailments or significant weight issues. People with a negative body image often feel ashamed, dissatisfied, or anxious about their appearance. They might focus on or even fixate on perceived flaws and compare themselves unfavorably to others. This negative self-view can dominate their thoughts and lead to various emotional and behavioral issues listed below.

Effects of Negative Body Image

Negative body image can have profound effects on mental health, contributing to a range of psychological and emotional difficulties:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Constant self-criticism can erode self-worth, making individuals feel unworthy or inadequate.

  • Anxiety and Depression: Persistent negative thoughts about one’s body can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, impacting overall mental health.

  • Eating Disorders: In an attempt to achieve an "ideal" body, individuals might engage in unhealthy eating behaviors, leading to conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, or binge eating disorder.

  • Social Withdrawal: Feelings of shame or embarrassment about one's appearance can cause individuals to withdraw from social activities, avoiding situations where they feel their bodies might be judged.

  • Obsessive Behaviors: Negative body image can result in obsessive behaviors, such as excessive exercising, frequent mirror checking, or constantly seeking reassurance about appearance.

Risk of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

If negative body image issues are not addressed, they can escalate into more severe conditions such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is a mental health condition where individuals become obsessively concerned with perceived flaws in their appearance, which are often unnoticeable to others. This disorder can lead to severe emotional distress and impair daily functioning.

What are the Symptoms of Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

  • Excessive grooming: Spending an inordinate amount of time grooming or attempting to camouflage perceived flaws.

  • Avoidance of social situations: Steering clear of public places or events to prevent others from seeing the perceived imperfections.

  • Compulsive behaviors: Engaging in repetitive behaviors like mirror checking or skin picking.

  • Distorted self-image: An inability to see one's appearance accurately, often believing minor or nonexistent flaws are severe and grotesque.

Without treatment, Body Dysmorphic Disorder can significantly impair one's quality of life, leading to isolation, severe depression, and even suicidal thoughts. It’s crucial to address body image issues early to prevent them from developing into more serious disorders.

Understanding body image and its impact on mental health is essential for addressing these issues comprehensively. By acknowledging the various influences and recognizing the symptoms of negative body image, individuals can take the first steps toward seeking help and building a healthier self-perception. At Be Your Best Self & Thrive, we are committed to providing the support and tools needed to foster a healthier body image and improve overall well-being.

The Impact of Social Media on Body Image

Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook play a significant role in shaping body image perceptions. These platforms often promote unrealistic beauty standards through heavily edited photos and curated content.

Social Media Can Lead To...

  • Comparison: Constant comparison with idealized images can lead to feelings of inadequacy.

  • Validation Seeking: Reliance on likes and comments for self-worth can diminish self-esteem.

  • Exposure to Negative Content: Encountering negative or body-shaming comments can reinforce negative body image.

Statistics on Social Media and Body Image:

  • 42% of people on social media report feeling more insecure about their appearance after using it.

The additional statistics below can be found here:

  • A study found that 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images they consume on social and traditional media.

  • 33% of adolescents who spend more than two hours a day on social media report that they feel unhappy with their bodies.

  • 48% of teenagers who spend more than five hours per day on social media platforms indicate a heightened level of dissatisfaction with their appearance

  • Approximately 91% of young women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape as influenced by social media

Example of Social Media Influence on Body Image: From "Hot Girl Summer" to "Healthy Girl Summer": Shifting the Focus from Appearance to Wellness

The Pressure of "Hot Girl Summer

The term "Hot Girl Summer," popularized by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, initially emerged as a celebratory trend encouraging individuals to embrace confidence, fun, and freedom during the summer months. However, as the trend gained traction on social media, it evolved into a movement that places significant pressure on individuals to achieve a specific body type to be considered "ready" for summer and "acceptable" to wear a bikini.

Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are inundated with posts tagged #HotGirlSummer, often featuring images of toned, slim bodies in bikinis. These posts frequently emphasize physical appearance and the need to attain a "beach-ready" body, leading many to feel inadequate or unworthy if they don't meet these beauty standards. The portrayal of an idealized summer body can foster negative body image, self-esteem issues, and even disordered eating behaviors as individuals strive to conform to these unrealistic expectations.

The Rise of "Healthy Girl Summer"

In response to the negative implications of "Hot Girl Summer," a new trend has emerged: "Healthy Girl Summer." This movement shifts the focus from achieving a specific body type to embracing overall wellness and self-care. "Healthy Girl Summer" encourages individuals to prioritize mental, physical, and emotional health, promoting a more inclusive and holistic approach to summer fun.

Principles of "Healthy Girl Summer

  • Body Positivity and Acceptance: Emphasizing that all bodies are beautiful and worthy of being celebrated, regardless of shape or size. This principle promotes self-love and body confidence.

  • Balanced Nutrition: Encouraging a balanced and nutritious diet that fuels the body without resorting to extreme dieting or deprivation. The focus is on nourishing the body rather than altering its appearance.

  • Joyful Movement: Promoting physical activities that bring joy and improve health, such as yoga, swimming, hiking, or dancing, rather than exercising solely for weight loss or muscle gain.

  • Mental Health Care: Prioritizing mental well-being through practices like mindfulness, meditation, and seeking professional help when needed. Mental health is acknowledged as a crucial component of overall wellness.

  • Self-Care and Rest: Recognizing the importance of rest, relaxation, and self-care routines that support emotional and physical health.

The shift from "Hot Girl Summer" to "Healthy Girl Summer" on social media is helping individuals achieve healthier body images by promoting body positivity and acceptance. Moreover, this trend supports holistic health and wellness, reducing the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards.

Treating Body Image Issues with Holistic Therapy at Be Your Best Self & Thrive in St. Petersburg, Fl

Holistic therapy at Be Your Best Self & Thrive takes a comprehensive approach to mental health care by addressing the mind, body, and spirit. Unlike traditional therapy, which may focus only on psychological aspects, our holistic approach acknowledges the interconnectedness of emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. This method provides a deeper understanding of the root causes of mental health issues, facilitating more effective and lasting healing.

Our Holistic Therapy Approaches

At Be Your Best Self & Thrive, we utilize a variety of holistic therapy techniques to help clients overcome body image issues and build a healthier, more positive self-image. Our goal is to treat the whole person, fostering balance and harmony within all aspects of their lives. Here are some of the key holistic therapy methods we incorporate:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices help individuals develop a greater awareness of their thoughts and feelings, enabling them to challenge and change negative self-perceptions. Mindfulness encourages living in the present moment, reducing anxiety and improving emotional regulation.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This method helps clients identify and challenge distorted thinking patterns related to body image. CBT is highly effective in addressing the cognitive aspects of body image issues and promoting healthier thought patterns.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of mindfulness and acceptance. It is particularly useful for managing intense emotions and fostering healthy coping mechanisms, which can be crucial for those struggling with body image issues.

  • Positive Psychology: This approach focuses on enhancing well-being and happiness by building on individual strengths and fostering a positive outlook. It encourages clients to focus on what is going well in their lives, helping to cultivate a positive body image.

  • Humanistic/Existential Therapy: This technique emphasizes self-exploration and finding personal meaning. It helps clients understand their experiences and develop a greater sense of self-worth and acceptance, promoting a healthier relationship with their bodies.

  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT encourages clients to accept their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling overwhelmed by them. It promotes commitment to personal values and taking action that aligns with those values, helping to foster a positive self-image and body acceptance.

  • Intuitive Eating: Intuitive eating promotes a healthy relationship with food by encouraging individuals to listen to their body's natural hunger and fullness cues. This approach helps clients break free from the cycle of dieting and fosters a more positive body image by teaching self-compassion and body respect.

  • Internal Family Systems (IFS): IFS is a therapeutic approach that helps clients explore and understand the different 'parts' of themselves. By recognizing and addressing the internal conflicts and narratives that contribute to body image issues, clients can achieve greater self-integration and harmony, leading to a more positive self-view.

Our Clinicians and Their Holistic Approaches

Rochelle Young specializes in self-esteem and is currently accepting new clients. She offers compassionate support to those struggling with body image issues, utilizing techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and mindfulness and meditation.

If you are interested in scheduling a free 15-minute consultation with Rochelle Young, Get Started Now!

Nicole Malene can also help with body image struggles and will be accepting new clients starting in fall 2024. She incorporates Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), positive psychology, mindfulness and meditation, and humanistic/existential approaches into her sessions.

Jamie Molnar, the owner of Be Your Best Self & Thrive, is committed to delivering empathetic and holistic care. She ensures that each client receives comprehensive support by focusing on positive psychology and humanistic approaches.

By integrating these diverse holistic therapy techniques, our clinicians aim to help clients overcome body image issues and develop a stronger, more positive relationship with themselves. This holistic approach promotes overall well-being, helping individuals lead healthier, happier lives.

Q&A for Body Image Issues

What is body image?

Body image is the perception and attitude an individual has about their own body, including how they think and feel about their appearance and how they believe others perceive them.

What causes body image issues?

Body image issues can be caused by factors such as media portrayals of ideal bodies, societal pressures, personal experiences, and psychological factors like low self-esteem or anxiety.

How can social media affect body image?

Social media often promotes unrealistic body standards, which can lead to comparisons and feelings of inadequacy, negatively impacting one's body image and self-esteem.

Why is it important to address body image issues?

Addressing body image issues is crucial because they can lead to serious mental health problems like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and lower quality of life.

What are some common signs of negative body image?

Common signs include frequent self-criticism, avoiding social situations, excessive focus on weight or appearance, and engaging in unhealthy dieting or exercise habits.

Are men affected by body image issues?

Yes, men can also experience body image issues, often related to muscle mass, body fat, and height, influenced by media and societal standards.

Can professional help be beneficial for body image issues?

Yes, seeking help from a therapist or counselor can be beneficial as they can provide strategies to improve self-esteem, address underlying issues, and promote healthier thinking patterns.

Wrapping it up with the Content Creator

Understanding and addressing body image issues is essential for overall mental and physical well-being. By recognizing the influence of media, societal pressures, and personal experiences, individuals can take proactive steps towards developing a healthier, more positive self-image. Whether it's through self-compassion, support from loved ones, or professional help, improving body image is a journey towards better self-esteem and quality of life.

 If you're interested in personalized support, Be Your Best Self & Thrive Therapy in St. Petersburg, FL, offers specialized therapy to help you overcome body image concerns and thrive.

Let’s find the love our bodies deserve,

Alayna Dorfman

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