In today's world it can be difficult to build and maintain a positive self-image - however, it is both possible and important to do so. Unfortunately, studies have shown that significant populations of women, as well as some men, are dissatisfied with their bodies and/or suffer from low self-confidence and self-esteem, which can have extremely detrimental effects on relationships. Building a positive self-image can benefit your life as an individual as well as your relationships in many ways.
There are many factors that influence how individuals view themselves and their bodies. These factors can be biological, social, or psychological. Having a positive body image is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can improve an individual’s overall quality of life. There are many steps people can take towards improving their self-confidence and self-concept clarity (how clear they are about their own personality characteristics and preferences).
Individuals’ self-concept can have very real effects on their relationships, particularly those that are romantic and/or sexual. Research has found that people with high self-concept clarity - people who are clear about who they are and what is important to them - report higher relationship satisfaction and commitment. There is a direct correlation between the level of people’s self-concept clarity and the level of intimacy they will invest in their relationships. Individuals with low self-confidence can have more difficulty forming intimate bonds with their partners, which can cause relationships to suffer.
On the other hand, relationships benefit when both partners develop positive self-images. Individuals who have a healthy self-concept are often more open, expressive, and intimate with their significant others, which leads to more secure attachments. This is because when people perceive themselves as loveable and trustworthy, they will be more likely to openly and securely love and trust their partners.
Being self-confident also has a positive effect on people’s satisfaction with their sexuality and sexual interactions. Pleasurable sexual activities require disclosure of private aspects of the self that people with poor body images are often uncomfortable with. People who are discontented with their bodies often experience sexual problems, such as the inability to orgasm, while individuals who are comfortable and secure with their bodies often find their sexual experiences to be more enjoying and fulfilling. Being confident and familiar with your body will improve almost any sexual experience.
Research has proven that building a positive body image and having an overall healthy self-concept are important in creating intimate and fulfilling relationships. Exercising with your partner, eating healthy, and participating in activities you enjoy can all help to create better self-images and stronger relationships, which will lead to a happier life.
Lewandowski, Gary W., Nardone, Natalie, & Raines, Alanna J. (2010). The Role of Self-concept Clarity in Relationship Quality. Self & Identity, 9(4), 416-433. doi:10.1080/15298860903332191
Mashek, Debra J., & Aron, Arthur. (2004). Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Last Updated: 12 February 2012