Self-worth and its relationship to body image

When I’m coaching a client, we work on far more than body image.

That’s because, although a client may present with poor body image, her body isn’t normally the real issue.

When we dig deep, we find a poor sense of self-worth driving the desire to have the ‘ideal’ body.

So if you’re struggling with the way you feel about your body, you’ll probably benefit from working on your self-worth.

In this post I’m sharing:

  • What self-worth is, and how it’s related to your body image
  • How societal norms have tied your worth to appearance
  • Why body acceptance alone doesn’t create better self-worth
  • A powerful exercise to help you build up your self worth

Watch or read below:


What is self-worth?

Self-worth is knowing that you are worthy and valuable regardless of what happens to you.

Say that someone makes a negative comment about your work or how you look. Although that comment might hurt at the time, having self-worth means that your sense of your value isn’t crushed by a negative comment. Whereas someone with little self-worth may question what’s wrong with them and believe they have little or no value as a result.

Equating bodies with worth

Women often measure their worth by their bodies because that’s what we’re conditioned to do. Having the perfect body (whatever that is!) has become a way to demonstrate value.

This cultural conditioning negatively impacts body image, which is your perception of your body, and the way you think, feel and behave as a result.

One thing that I’ve observed happening with clients is that once they’ve worked on body acceptance and no longer tie their appearance to their worth, they’re sometimes left with a sense of not being ‘good enough’ in other areas of their life.

Other ways lack of worth can show up

You see, most body image issues arise out of the need to feel worthy and good enough. So once worth has been separated from the body, if there is still isn’t a healthy sense of worth, the issue pops up in other areas of their life.

It might manifest as a sense of not being ‘good enough’ at work, as a parent, in relationships or social situations. It could be any or all of these, because there are also impossible societal standards around these too!

You must be the model parent, the sex kitten wife, the power hungry, success driven employee or businesswoman, and the party animal friend. These societal expectations mean that our happiness and worth are hinged on external validation.

Self-worth is an inside job

If you want to know that deep down, you are worthy and valuable, you need to do the internal work. You need to embrace your imperfections and know who we are.

Building self-worth means rejecting the cultural standards and not relying on what other people think of you – something over which you have no control over anyway!

Nobody can ‘have it all’ or ‘do it all’. When you can step away from ridiculous expectations, you start to understand who you are, what makes you tick and what you want.

The women on my Coaching Programme achieve so much more than body acceptance – during the programme they come to recognise their intrinsic worth and know they have value no matter what life throws at them.

How to build up your self-worth

As a starting point for working on your self-worth, identify all the cultural expectations that are making you feel that you aren’t good enough. You’ll probably notice these expectations as your ‘shoulds’ or ‘oughts’– I really ‘should’ exercise more, I really ‘should’ have been promoted by now, I really ‘should’ go out with my friends tonight.

List them out and ask how they make you feel.

Then challenge who says you ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do something. Why should you? What is that expectation adding to the quality of your life? If it’s adding stress, fatigue or worry, maybe it’s time to let it go. Decide at least one ‘should’ that you’re going to let drop and notice how it feels to let it go.

I did an episode of Body Confident Friday on dealing with shoulds, which you might want to go and check out.

I hope that you’ve gained some insight into the concept of self-worth and how it’s related to body image from this post.

I’d love to hear about your self-worth and its impact on your body image or other aspects of your life.  Please leave a comment below.

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