Your self-image is a mental picture of yourself, both as a physical body and an individual. When you think about yourself, the feelings and images that come up are important. A healthy body image means that you see yourself as you really are and that you feel good in your own skin. Self-image also involves how you feel about your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.
Because sex involves both the body and the mind, our self-image has a strong effect on our sexual health. By the same token, our feelings about our bodies can influence the way we think about ourselves as people. Self-image can change as we age, too, because our bodies constantly change as we move through life.
During puberty, hormones cause these changes to happen very quickly, which can be both exciting and a little jarring. It’s important to realize and remind yourself that you have a body that is one-of-a-kind. That’s a special thing, and it’s particularly important to remember if you’re feeling self-conscious about the way you look. Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. There is no one “right” body size. Your body is not, and should not be, exactly like anyone else’s. Valuing and respecting your own body is a crucial part of a healthy sexual life (and a healthy life in general)!
The influence of the media
Images of beautiful men and women are displayed everywhere from billboards to television advertisements. Fortunately, everyone does not look the same. But looking at models and movie stars often create a negative self-image in relation to these images. It can be extremely difficult to deal with the many different messages that are sent through TV, magazines, and movies, especially if reinforced by the people that you know personally!
Images in advertising and media, in general, tend to limit the idea of beauty to one particular interpretation; it seems as though you have to look or act in a certain way to be considered successful or attractive. This can create unnecessary pressure to conform to someone else’s definition of what is attractive or good.
It’s possible that negative feelings about your body can lead to negative feelings about yourself as a person. If you do feel scared or self-conscious about the idea of someone else seeing or judging your body, remember that, first of all, you’re not alone! Many people of all ages experience these feelings. If there’s a friend, family member, or therapist that you trust, take some time to talk about your feelings with them; they may be able to offer a more objective perspective!
The bottom line
The more you actively value your own unique qualities, the easier it is to think about your body as an extension of the amazing personal traits that you possess. If your self-image feels overwhelmingly negative, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about how to get help.