Body Shame: The Far End of Negative Body Image

Negative body image can be the result of many factors: external criticism, media standards, feelings of failure in other areas of life, social isolation – the list goes on. But when a therapist or counselor works with patients who have poor self-image esteem, some of those patients experience this negative self-image to an exceptionally extreme degree. As psychotherapist Jane Shure, PhD explains it, body image runs on a continuum, from extremely positive on one end to extremely negative on the other. It’s that extreme negative that many therapists and counselors identify as body shame.

It’s natural to have parts of our bodies that we would prefer were different: a little tighter here, a little less bulbous there, better complexion, more definition, etc. But when these feelings are constant, they start to get in the way of our relationships with ourselves and others. If you are constantly checking mirrors, inspecting yourself, wondering if other people think you’re unattractive, or thinking you’d be happy “if only I looked different,” then body shame may be a good way to describe what you’re going through.

The good news is that over time, you can learn to change the way you see yourself.  Many therapists and counselors find that there are two parts to the “why” of body shame: the cause and the perpetuation. For many people, the roots of body shame lie in experiences long past: physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can all contribute. Rejection and repeated criticism can also lay the groundwork for poor self esteem that manifests as body shame. But replaying negative thought patterns perpetuate hurtful ideas, growing a small seed into a fully bloomed problem. So to address very low self-image, you can do two things. To identify the cause, you can work with a therapist, counselor, or trusted mentor to identify any deep insecurities that have been weighing on you. To stop perpetuating those insecurities, you need to learn to change your internal monologue. Margarita Tartakovsky recommends some practical tips and exercises and advocates self ownership, advice that many people, regardless of how negative they see themselves, may find useful.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • michelle


    December 12th, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I feel this kind of shame every time I see myself in a mirror, everything that I know that I am eating something that is bad for me. How in the wordl would I ever be able to overxome this? It is a constant struggle for me, sometimes it is easier to stay in bed than to deal with it.

  • Frank


    December 13th, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    This sounds like a terrible thing to happen to any person.To dislike your own body is something really really sad.There is no running away and it also promotes an inferiority complex and leaves you vulnerable to other people’s criticism.

  • Samara


    December 13th, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    Michelle I really do hope that you can find the help that you need because life is too precious to worry about what we look like in the mirror. It should be about what we are and who we are on the inside and have nothing to do with our outward appearance. What is beautiful to someone else is average to another so please do not sell yourself short. There are too many people who are hurt by what society as a whole deems to be ebautiful and perfect but it is just too much for most of us to try to hold ourselves up to most of these fake and airbrushed standards.

  • Larry


    December 13th, 2010 at 12:17 PM

    It’s 1 thing to look after yourself and be attentive about your body but it is quite another to hate even the smallest of imperfection that you have.A lot of people do this and it really hurts me to see people doing this.I mean there are so many physically and mentally challenged people out there who have difficulty doing basic things.You have an able body and an able mind,are not suffering from any disorder and are yet so negative about your body and keep thinking that it will let you down?!Please,gimme a break!!!

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on