Body Image: Projecting a Positive Self

It is a well known saying that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Most of us have had a fantasy at one time or other of making a grand entrance at a party where everyone would immediately be attracted to and admire us.

First impressions are influenced by the self image we project to the world. Thus, people will react positively if our message clearly says, “I feel confident about myself.” On the other hand, one is likely to receive a neutral or negative reaction if our image says loudly, “I’m not feeling really great about myself and how I look.” These messages tend to precede anything we say and are usually conveyed through body language, style of dress, posture, etc. Body image and body language are direct indicators to the world of how we feel about ourselves and the result of how we view our physical appearance, how we interpret what we see in the mirror, how we believe others see us. Negative self-perceptions about our body usually make us believe we are unappealing. This, in turn, affects our body language and unconsciously transmits that perception to others. Body language is an outward physical expression of those inner feelings that demonstrates to others how we feel.

Sex and love, and relationships with others can be the most exhilarating adventure of our lives but the pathway to the development of our own, unique style can be just as exciting. It is often a difficult road especially for those who need constant feedback about their physical appeal. There are many facets to projecting a positive self-image and appearing attractive that when recognized and utilized effectively, can make a person look and feel great at any time. The most important of these is self confidence. It, or the lack of it, is hard to explain but “you know it when you see it.” This “Core- Confidence” as I like to call it, is a deeply ingrained awareness that can truly make an average person appear beautiful, radiant and vital at any age. The key to this awareness is the knowledge that true confidence comes from deep within a person’s core or center. This center must be grounded in a belief in one’s value as a person and that relationships are but a part of that being.

However, it is important to understand that projecting a positive self-image is much more than dressing in a provocative way or being attractive physically. It is intriguing that regardless of education, socio-economic status, sexual preference or profession, people (though more women than men) are influenced by what I refer to as their “self- confidence quotient.” When a person’s core confidence is intact, their “self- confidence quotient” is at its peak. Unfortunately, when it comes to taking risks with other people whether at work or play, most people seem to focus on some perceived flaw in their appearance that affects their core-confidence. Out of curiosity as a psychotherapist, I asked colleagues, family and friends about their knowledge in this area. It was uncanny that almost all of them knew someone who saw themselves as socially inadequate because of negative feelings about their body or looks in some way.

A person’s core-confidence level and the ability to feel self-assured in both work and play can also be influenced by life experiences. Reactions from others affect a persons’ self- esteem as much as their own feelings about themselves and whether they are appealing to others or not. Anyone who has had numerous rejections is less likely to have confidence in their ability to relate to and attract others.

With this in mind, it is important that we empower people to examine their beliefs about what traits are desirable in the content of their character that makes them attractive. Our often unobtainable view of physical beauty puts most of us on the defensive which often makes us further devalue our level of self-confidence. It is worth examining our cultural ideas of beauty before we can truly accept our own. It is also important that we encourage people to value themselves and their unique qualities rather than to base their self-esteem on false notions dictated by others. It is valuable to encourage more variety in what we believe to be appealing and to allow people to discover the style that feels comfortable and best suits them. We might also encourage everyone to focus more on projecting an open and friendly attitude towards others which leads to a more positive response in return. These positive responses from people will in turn create a stronger sense of core-confidence which then will attract others more frequently. However, for this to happen fully, will require a change in attitude that encourages people to love and accept their bodies and themselves fully, so that they can celebrate their differences. It may be difficult to shift these attitudes and feelings but a transformation is necessary if we are to move beyond the status quo that too often devalues our core-confidence and sets us on a course of disappointment and feelings of failure.  

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