Self-perception and Body Image among Adolescents

Body image refers to how and what you think and feel about your body. It incorporates the image of your body that you have in your brain, which may or may not coordinate your body’s real shape and size. Healthy body image refers to feeling positive, happy, and satisfied with the way one looks and being accepting of the same. Unhealthy body image, on the other hand refers to feeling negative, and unhappy with the way one looks, often wanting to change the shape or size (Body image: pre-teens and teenagers, 2019).

Increasing awareness has fuelled the concern about the impacts of poor self-perception in youngsters and teenagers themselves and by the assumption that body dissatisfaction during youth and childhood creates risk for the improvement of self-perception, unhealthy eating practices and depression in adulthood (Smolak, 2004).

A healthy body image is important, since it is likely to result having good self-esteem and mental health, as well as a balanced attitude to eating and physical activity.

What are the factors that affect body image?

  1. Media and Culture –

Cultural imperative for thinness often results in dieting and starvation. Evidence indicates that there is a strong relationship between exposure to media images that show slender-ideal body and body image concerns in women (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008).

Strong social and cultural forces influence body image in young people. From childhood to adulthood, television, billboards, movies, music videos, video games, computer games, toys, the Internet, and magazines convey images of ideal attractiveness, beauty, shape, size, strength and weight” (Croll, 2005).

Research also suggests that there is a collision between culture and physiology, resulting in negative effects such as being dissatisfied with one’s body (Fairburn & Brownell, 2002).

  • Peers and attitudes –

Studies indicate that friendship cliques are often associated with an individual’s body image and eating behaviours. However, it is also indicative that rather than peer groups causing certain attitudes, individuals tend to choose friends with similar attitudes (Barlow & Durand, 2005).

  • Family Influences –

Familial pressures can also contribute towards increased body disappointment and self-perception concerns. Socialization pushes males to endeavour to become stronger and more developed, while females are to make their bodies more “beautiful”. Parents, in general tend to be more negative and more critical with respect to youngsters’ appearance, eating and physical action as they move into and through puberty. Teenagers get the most criticism with respect to their physical appearance and the most endeavours to change their appearance (Croll, 2005).

Gender Differences

Research shows that males tend to be more silent about their body negativity, and seek treatment less frequently or hold off on treatment longer than women due to feeling of shame. In females, however, it was noticed that there is more internalization, more body shame, and body surveillance. According to some researchers however, say men are typically more satisfied with their physical appearance and less likely than women to exhibit body-change behaviours (Male vs. Female Body Image, 2020).

Signs to Identify Unhealthy Body image (Body image: pre-teens and teenagers, 2019) –

  1. Self-criticism – criticising one’s body
  2. Constantly comparing one’s body to another’s’
  3. Obsessing about one’s weight and specific body parts
  4. Apprehensive about trying new activities because of how one feels about their body
  5. Spending excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror, focusing on imperfections
  6. Associating food with feelings of guilt and shame

Promoting Healthy Body Image – Prevention and Counselling

So as to assist youth with experiencing healthy self-perception and body image as the standard instead of as an exception, teenagers and their parents need exact information with respect to healthy eating and the impacts of media, society, culture, companions, and family on body image. Starting at a young age, teens need to comprehend that bodies come in various sizes and shapes. The message that everybody is different, and that various shapes and sizes are ordinary, ought to be clear and impartial. They need to comprehend the physical and affective changes that they experience with adolescence are typical (Croll, 2010).

Focusing on the child as a Whole person –

This is tied in with commending the child for what their identity is and what they can do, instead of his size or shape. Letting the child know that you’re glad for the things that aren’t identified with appearance. This may incorporate your kid’s humour, effort at school, kindness or other abilities and personal attributes. Encouraging the child to invest energy on interests and exercises that help them feel great is important. Also, positive messages can be sent by zeroing in on what the body can do, instead of how the body looks.


Barlow D.H, & Durand M.V. (2005). Abnormal Psychology: An Integrative Approach. (7th ed.). Toronto, Ontario: Nelson Education.

Body image: Pre-teens and teenagers. (2019, June 12). Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Croll, J. (2010, October 14). Body Image and Adolescents. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Fairburn, C.G., & Brownell, K.D. (2002). Eating disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook (2nd ed.). New York. NY: Guildford.

Grabe, S., Ward L.M., & Hyde J.S. (2008). The role of Media in Body image concerns among Women: A meta-analysis experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 622-640.

Male vs. Female Body Image. (2020). Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

Smolak, L. (2004). Body image in children and adolescents: Where do we go from here? Body Image, 1(1), 15-28. doi:10.1016/s1740-1445(03)00008-1

Published by Metamorphosis 2020

Metamorphosis is an initiative to shape mental health education at schools. We customize need-based and evidence-based modules for schools, teachers, and parents. These modules can be availed for free!

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