Your self-image is your mental picture of yourself, both as a physical body and a person. 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 your emotions about your strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Because sex involves both the body and the mind, our self-image can have a strong affect 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 change constantly as we move through life.
During puberty, abrupt shifts in our hormones cause these changes to happen very quickly, which can be both exciting and a little jarring. Acne may erupt on our skin as we adjust to a new stage of life. Breasts develop, menstruation starts, and tons of other changes come as well. If you’re having a hard time dealing with the effects of puberty, make sure that you take some time to slow down and get to know yourself.
It’s important to realize – and remind yourself every day – that, just as you have a unique mind with its own gifts to offer the world, you also have a unique 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. Valuing and respecting your own body is a crucial part of a healthy sexual life (and a healthy life in general)!
The Influence of Media
It can be extremely difficult to deal with the many different messages that are sent through TV, magazines, and movies, especially if they are 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; the underlying message can make it seem 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, feminine, or good.
It’s a shame, because women represent so many different forms of beauty; our different shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities are what make us special and interesting! Remember, again, that you possess inner traits and physical qualities that are special to you, and that they have unique value.
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 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 doctor about how to get help.
Self Image as We Age
As women get older, into our 30s and 40s, the changes that came so quickly when we were younger turn into a slower shift; we see changes in our breasts, in our body shape, in our energy levels, etc. These changes may be hard to handle, as they require constantly becoming comfortable with our bodies all over again.
Menopause is another big change that can be a challenge. Your body chemistry may shift very abruptly, and it can be difficult to deal with the emotional changes that can accompany the physical ones. The process of aging, too, brings on new feelings and experiences that can affect your sexual life and your self-perception.
When it comes down to it, a woman’s physical body is constantly changing. Actively learning about what to expect as you age can help you prepare for the feelings that those changes may bring. Don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider about what you should be watching for as your body goes through the stages of life. Remember that your body is an amazing thing; it is capable of showing love, giving and receiving pleasure, and nurturing others!