Healthy Self Image: How to Love Yourself For Who You Are
Self image affects your physical and mental well-being. So go ahead... love yourself.
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Although loving yourself is a constant struggle, it is one worth continuing. Self-love plays into physical and mental health, as well as the ability to have strong, healthy relationships. When we love ourselves, we are more likely to take care of ourselves by eating right, exercising, getting the rest we need and getting regular medical care. Conversely, when we don’t appreciate or accept ourselves, we are more likely to do things that are unhealthy, like over eat, or do everything for others and nothing for ourselves.
“Health is not just physical health. It is mind, body and spirit,” says Uday Jani, M.D., a Lewes internist who recently completed a fellowship in integrative medicine. “Feeling positive about ourselves has a positive influence on health. If your mind if peaceful, your body is happy,” he says, “but if you lack positive self-esteem, you tend to be very self-critical.”
Being hypercritical and feeling too much stress and anxiety can increase the likelihood that you will suffer from physical ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headaches, asthma and a variety of skin rashes. A lack of self-esteem can even make it more difficult to rebound from an injury, Jani says. If you lack belief in yourself, you might give up too easily on the recovery process.
The lack of self-love has ramifications for mental health as well. It can interfere with motivation and cause isolation, anxiety and depression, says Lewes psychologist Richard Todd. Some people try to distract themselves from their feelings of self-worth by engaging in activities that feel good in the moment but are ultimately addictive and destructive, such as drugs, alcohol and food.
When we lack self-love, it becomes difficult to have healthy relationships with others as well. People who lack self-worth tend toward “friendships and relationships that are destructive and tear you down, because you don’t recognize that you deserve more,” says psychologist Kim Champion.
Psychologist Judi Willetts, Champion’s colleague at Pike Creek Psychological Center in Newark, agrees. “To have healthy relationships you need to have positive self-esteem,” she says. “You can only extend love to other people when you love yourself."
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