It seems nowadays that almost everyone is unhappy with the way their bodies look. While the causes for this seem intense and varied, most people seem to miss something in the whole issue. Too much negative body-image can be harmful, but just the right amount can spur you to achieve a healthier, more physically capable body.
The trick is to ignore the body image our culture and society seem to impose upon you and find one for yourself that you would like to achieve. Say you want to lose an inch off your waist or put some more muscle on your shoulders: as long as this comes from a genuine desire (not one forced on you by cultural norms or the way other students might look) and you don’t do anything too extreme in your pursuit of this goal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. As long as you approach your ideals of body image in a healthy way, and act in a similar fashion, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve your body in some way.
My personal favorite example of body image isn’t actually image-focused. It’s the simple idea that “form follows function.” Instead of worrying about what your body looks like, you focus on its capabilities. You focus on a goal, like running a
five-minute mile, or being able to do 15 pull-ups in a row, and you work to achieve that. Your body ends up adapting, and in the process, demonstrating your new physical capabilities (in the case of running, being thin and lean, in the case of the pull-ups, having a strong, muscular back). The “form” of your body is thus dictated by its new abilities (the “function”). Without really trying to, you build a respectable body as a symptom of achieving a different goal entirely. To top it off, because it represents the results of your actions, your body now reflects a far more accurate representation of what you do (and hence, your personality) than any imposed body image. As a result, it ends up being a much better fit for who you are as a person. That’s the sort of body-image that needs to be promoted.
Obviously, destructive ideas of what an ideal body should look like can be incredibly damaging. This is a concern for many people, and it should not be taken lightly. Like many things in life, taking responsibility for what you feel your body should look like, and then acting on that decision is a powerful way of taking control of your life and banishing the ideals that might be imposed upon us by others. This is the healthiest and most productive paradigm you can possess to approach the matter.