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Body Image

How do you view yourself?

Body image plays a significant role in shaping our self-perception and overall appearance. It is the subjective opinion we hold about our bodies—a mental picture that influences how we view ourselves. However, body image is far from being an objective assessment; it is susceptible to personal biases and societal pressures.


This page explores the factors that contribute to our body image, why negative perceptions persist, and how Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can help reshape our self-view.

All of us have parts of our bodies that we would like to change, or that we're not entirely happy with. But sometimes, these concerns are magnified, until they can start to take over your life.

Treat Yourself Well Psychology Sydney Body Image

Social Pressures and Body Image

Social Pressure - In today's society, the media often dictates an unrealistic standard of physical attractiveness, with an emphasis on unnaturally thin bodies. However, beauty ideals have varied throughout history. In different eras, diverse body shapes have been celebrated. Renaissance paintings, for instance, immortalized full-figured women as the epitome of feminine beauty. The shift toward ultra-thin models and celebrities is a recent phenomenon, not an inherent marker of attractiveness.

Specific Pressures - Personal experiences and environments can significantly impact how we feel about our bodies. Growing up in a family that prioritizes thinness or athleticism can shape our self-perception. Similarly, working in industries where physical appearance holds great value, such as sales or cosmetics, can contribute to body image concerns. Subtle or overt pressure from a partner to be thinner can also influence our perception of ourselves.

Physical Distinctiveness - Physical characteristics that make us stand out from the crowd can intensify our sensitivity towards body image. Early or late puberty, extreme height or short stature, prominent birthmarks, or scars—all these features may lead to unwanted attention or teasing. Such experiences can profoundly impact the development of our body image.

Critical Incidents in the Past - Certain events from our past can have a lasting impact on our body image. Humiliating experiences, like being called fat by a teacher or being excluded from a sports team, can shape negative perceptions of our bodies. These critical incidents contribute to the development of self-view and can perpetuate a negative body image.

Ways you might maintain a negative perception of your body.

Once a negative body image takes hold, certain behaviors and thought patterns can reinforce and maintain it. Understanding these factors is crucial for initiating positive change

Body Avoidance

Some individuals become so disgusted with their bodies that they actively avoid situations that might remind them of their appearance. This can manifest as avoiding shopping for clothes, shying away from social events or beaches, or refraining from looking at mirrors. By avoiding these situations, individuals temporarily alleviate discomfort, but this approach fails to address the root cause. Avoidance perpetuates negative body image, preventing the discovery that such situations may not be as dreadful as anticipated.

Body Checking

In contrast to avoidance, body checking involves repeatedly scrutinizing one's body for perceived flaws. This can include spending excessive time studying oneself in the mirror, pinching body parts to assess "fatness," or obsessively weighing and measuring. While individuals engaging in body checking may believe it offers control, it actually perpetuates the focus on perceived faults. Constantly highlighting and fixating on these aspects reinforces the belief that one's body is not good enough.

Misinterpretating Physical Stimuli

Misinterpretation of normal bodily experiences can further fuel negative body image. For example, some women perceive natural thigh or tummy movement as a sign of being "fat," when in reality, these fluctuations are a normal part of female physiology. Similarly, fluid retention during pre-menstrual cycles can be misinterpreted as weight gain. Recognizing and correcting these misinterpretations is vital to challenging negative body image.

Negative Thinking and Belief Systems

Negative thoughts and belief systems play a central role in maintaining negative body image. Identifying recurrent negative thinking patterns and challenging them is key to reshaping body image. Belief systems such as associating thinness with success or equating being fat with laziness can be deeply ingrained. However, accepting these dysfunctional beliefs only perpetuates unhappiness. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) offers effective strategies to challenge and change negative thought patterns.

Reshaping Body Image with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a very effective tool to dramatically improve body image. CBT is evidence-based treatment - meaning that there is plenty of research to show that it is highly effective in improving body image. If you choose to come for treatment, you can trust that you are getting the best that modern psychological science can offer.

At Treat Yourself Well Sydney we combine our CBT approach with principles of Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to work with body image. ACT and Mindfulness are evidence based and serve to enhance the changes occurring with CBT.

  1. Addressing Avoidance and Checking Behaviours:
    CBT focuses on helping individuals overcome body avoidance and checking behaviours. Under the guidance of an experienced psychologist, practical strategies are employed to combat these patterns. By reducing avoidance and checking, negative thoughts about one's body can be significantly diminished, providing a better chance for lasting change.

  2. Correcting Misinterpretations:
    CBT empowers individuals to adopt a scientific approach when evaluating their body. By seeking accurate information and challenging misinterpretations, one can dismantle false beliefs. Fact-finding missions, such as researching average dress sizes, can reveal objective data that contradicts negative self-perceptions.

  3. Transforming Negative Thinking and Belief Systems:
    CBT delves into negative thinking patterns and belief systems that sustain negative body image. By identifying and challenging these patterns, individuals gain effective strategies to reshape their thoughts. This shift in thinking helps dismantle the notion that perfection is necessary for self-acceptance, allowing individuals to pursue a more fulfilling life.

Want to find out more?

To learn more or to enquire about our BDD support, contact us at:, or give us a call on (02) 9555 4810.

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