This entire summer, the Suit Urself Swimsuit Challenge has been all about body acceptance. We wrote about why body image challenges are important and the endless ways that bad body image and low self-esteem hold you back. This week, we want to show you what you’ll gain when you lose the negative feelings toward your body! Body image is the mental representation we create of what we think we look like; which may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. It is subject to all kinds of distortion from internal elements like our emotions, moods, early experiences, attitudes of our parents, and much more. Nevertheless, it strongly influences behavior. Self-esteem is the “real” opinion you have of yourself – how you value and respect yourself as a person. Your self-esteem has a direct effect on how you take care of yourself, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Self-esteem is about how much you feel you are worth — and how much you feel other people value you. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect your mental health and how you behave. Self-esteem and body image also exert influences on each other – it is hard to feel good about yourself if you hate your body! If you have a poor body image, you cannot fully accept yourself as you are. Self-acceptance is crucial to a good body image. If you accept yourself, that means that you acknowledge that you are fine and that you are happy with yourself. That doesn’t mean that you believe you’re perfect and will never need to change one bit, but self-acceptance does allow you to make reasonable changes in order to improve yourself. However, it doesn’t ask you to hate yourself until those changes have been made. Poor body image has been linked to a number of mental and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. It can cause emotional turmoil and can lead you to believe that you’re less worthwhile than others. It can contribute to low self-esteem and fear of intimacy, hampering your interpersonal relationships. Poor body image, when severe, can even increase your risk of suicide. On the other hand, if you have a good body image, you can accept yourself. You realize that you aren’t perfect, but you also realize that no one else is either. You hold yourself to reasonable standards, and have reasonable expectations for yourself. If you have a healthy body image, you like the way your body looks and feels. You don’t feel like you need to tone up, lose weight, or have plastic surgery in order to feel better about it. You may still make a decision to improve your body, by losing weight or exercising more for instance, but that’s because you’re concerned about your health or other factors, not because you think it will make you more valuable as a person. You’re also more likely to be emotionally and mentally stable and healthy. You can live assertively – assertiveness allows people to express their honest feelings and opinions comfortably without anxiety or guilt, and to obtain their personal rights without denying the rights of others. You’ll enjoy more confidence and self-awareness. You’ll even enjoy closer relationships, since you won’t be afraid to reveal your body in intimate settings. You’ll find people who like and appreciate you for who you are. You’ll be less likely to suffer from eating disorders and you’ll decrease your risks of depression and anxiety. Most of all, you will enjoy a better life balance. Take care of your health, but don’t obsess over it or struggle for perfection. Find a satisfying balance of wellness and wholeness that works for you at this time in your life and helps you live the way you want. The secret to happiness is not to get what you want, but to want what you have . Contentment has long been valued in world religions and philosophy. Realizing the full measure of your abundance can bring true happiness. Join us next week for our next body image-building post! Don’t forget to follow our campaign on Twitter using the #suiturself tag, check out our submission gallery, or send us your own submission to firstname.lastname@example.org! Related posts from the Suit Urself series: Body image, fashion and disabilities Are we leaving men out? Meet the fat-shionistas How to deal with body-snarking and judgmental comments It’s not just about size The Beach Body Tutorial If you like it, wear it! Work what you’ve got! Body acceptance tips Why are body image challenges important? Suit Urself! Choose your attitude this summer with our body-positive swimsuit challenge!