7 Ways to promote Positive Body Image Among Adolescent Girls and Boys

Adolescence — marked by the delicate dance between childhood and adulthood — is a phase of profound transformation and self-discovery. At this tender age, the opinions of others wield a considerable influence, shaping perceptions and influencing crucial life choices.

From a career path to physical appearance; this is the time when vulnerabilities are heightened, and the weight of external judgments can be overwhelming.

Even subtle messages and comments about their appearance from family, peers, or social media can impact the confidence of an adolescent boy or girl. These negatively perceived messages may make them critical of their bodies and lead to comparisons with others.

Negative body image issues can impact the confidence of an adolescent boy or girl (credits: rawpixel.com)

The first step to achieving a positive body image in adolescents is to understand what it’s all about. Body image simply means how you feel about your appearance. As for any feelings, there will be polar opposites in your body image as well. Positive body image or body positivity helps you to love your body regardless of your physical appearance. Your body image can also be your thoughts about your body weight or height or how you feel within your own skin.

Developing a healthy attitude towards your body requires you to get comfortable within your own body. It’s about finding a balance between leading a healthy life and not allowing concerns about your appearance to take over your life. Adolescents go through many changes during puberty which can affect their body image.

Why are adolescents affected by negative body image issues?

Several external factors affect the body image issues of an adolescent

Several studies conducted among Indian adolescents have proved that Body Image Dissatisfaction is no longer a Western concept. The body image in adolescents can be influenced by both external factors and internal factors, which pressure them into an unrealistic body image perception.

In this age, social media has become one of the major external factors where you are not only influenced by your peers but also by random strangers. Another important external factor is your family environment which includes your parents’ body image beliefs, and their attitude toward weight gain. Being bullied or shamed also influences an adolescent’s perception of their appearance. One other common external factor today is toxic romantic relationships.

Besides these external factors, internal factors like one’s own self-esteem and concerns about a healthy body can contribute to a negative body image. Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, trauma, or in rare cases, body dysmorphic disorders can also factor in as internal factors.

7 ways to develop a positive body image in adolescent boys and girls

Cultivating a positive body image is crucial among adolescent boys and girls

Helping an adolescent develop a healthy body image majorly includes two things: (i) minimizing the causes of poor body image, and (ii) developing their self-esteem. You can help your boys or girls discover their place in the world and provide them with unconditional love and support through the challenges of growing up. So here are some ways to practically help your teenager.

1. School / College based interventions for media literacy

Based on a study, media literacy programs among school or college students empower them to critically analyze the different messages in media. This analysis will help them recognize unrealistic beauty standards and reduce body image dissatisfaction.

2. Shift their focus from body appearances

Dr. Kristine Luce of Stanford University emphasizes the importance of knowing our bodily functions to develop a positive body image. An Oxford academic research also found body functionality as a valuable construct with respect to positive body image. Adolescents should be encouraged to appreciate their bodies beyond appearance and to learn what their body is capable of doing. 

3. Normalize body diversity 

Expose your adolescent to diverse body shapes and sizes, and encourage them to appreciate the beauty that comes in various forms. This kind of normalization helps these adolescents to overcome the stigma from a young age.

4. Promote self-compassion

Dr. Kristine Luce also highlights the importance of practicing self-compassion and positive body image in adolescents among adolescents. When adolescents learn to love and appreciate their bodies despite imperfections, they can explore limitless possibilities in this world.

5. Introduce them to body-positive positive content

Even exposing your adolescent to small amounts of body-positive content can have a significant impact on body satisfaction. A study published by Dr Jasmine Fardouly confirms the effectiveness of body-positive content. But she also remarks that the creators will have to do more research on such a sensitive topic.

6. Safe space for open conversations

Your adolescents need to have a safe space for open conversations about body image issues. Create spaces for them to express their insecurities and feelings. Normalize such discussions on body-related topics. Most importantly, hear them out without judgment. 

7. Teach them self-care practices

Your adolescent needs to understand that self-care practices go beyond physical appearance. Teach them to practice activities like meditation, journaling, and exercise, that can foster a positive connection with their bodies.

If your adolescent child develops a mental health or eating disorder due to their negative body image, please approach a mental health professional. Your unconditional love and support play a major role in helping your adolescents to have a full and meaningful life in their own bodies. MyndStories is here to help your teen with any body image or mental health-related concerns.

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