How amazing is your body? Were someone to ask you that question, do you think you would answer based on your capacities and achievements, or on your reflection in the mirror? According to body image research, people with negative body images are likely to overemphasize this latter option, focusing predominantly on their appearance when evaluating themselves. The field of body functionality calls for an alternative to such appearance-dominating views by instead delving into what one’s body is capable of, and how appreciating these capacities may better one’s self-image. In other words, rather than concerning yourself about height, weight, or aesthetics, it makes you appreciate how dazzling your dance moves are, how creative your mind is when scheming procrastination plans, or how long you can endure and enjoy a midnight Netflix binge.
Such acts of functionality appreciation (e.g., appreciation of bodily functions ranging from physical capacities and senses to creative endeavors and self-care) have been found to positively impact body image in both men and women. People with more positive body images also tend to possess a higher functionality appreciation, furthering the prospect that appreciating one’s body functionality may play a key role in a healthy body image. What happens, however, when someone’s body functionality is restricted? When, for example, someone struggles to move certain limbs, has great difficulty seeing, or experiences seizures that limit their daily capacities? Would this negatively impact their functionality appreciation and body image, or could it perhaps increase their appreciation of the capacities that they do possess?
Our study aims to shed light on this very question by researching whether people with and without physical disabilities differ in functionality appreciation. Additionally, we aim to observe whether there are any differences in self-compassion and gratitude, which are both traits related to a positive body image. By conducting this study, we hope to add to an unfortunately still scarce amount of research on body image in relation to physical disabilities and, consequently, shed light on a minority group that should definitely not go unnoticed within such an important topic.
So, what can your body do?
Dani de Beijer, Karolina Eschen, Yassmine Ouald Aissa, Celina Slawik.