Body image refers to how a person sees themselves. Some people may have a negative body image and hold an unrealistic view of their body.
There is no one cause of negative body image, and there is no one type of person that struggles with it. People could develop issues due to bullying, physical or sexual abuse, as a result of another mental health issue such as depression or from comparing themselves to unrealistic beauty standards reflected in the media and society. Girls are more likely to suffer with body image issues, but this does not mean that boys are not affected.
Signs that a young person has a negative body image include obsessive scrutiny in mirrors, frequent comparison to others and envy of someone else’s body.
Having a negative body image can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
How you can help
There are several ways parents and carers can help children to feel more confident about themselves:
- Don’t compare them to others.
- Talk to them about what they like about themselves and what you like about them, particularly things other than their appearance, such as what they are good at and what they enjoy doing.
- Teach them how to use the internet safely and remind them that the images they see in the media may not be a representation of reality and are often digitally enhanced.
- Encourage them to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Childline has lots of advice and information aimed at young people about body image.
Self-esteem is the opinion someone holds about themselves. When people have low self-esteem, they tend to see themselves in a more critical light and feel less able to cope with challenges.
People’s confidence and self-esteem may differ depending on the situation they are in. It may come from childhood experiences, or be caused by stress or life events, such as a serious illness or a bereavement.