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Intersectionality & Body Image: Considering Cultural, Gender & Identity Factors in Therapy

March 21, 2024

Brooklyn therapist working with her male client on eating disorder recovery.

Visualize a completed puzzle. This puzzle represents a person, and each piece represents the different identities and characteristics that come together to make up this person as a whole. One piece is their race, one piece is their gender identity, one piece is their sexuality, one piece is their love of baking or their hatred of horror films and so on. This concept is known as intersectionality. Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality acknowledges that individuals have unique experiences based on their many identities, and these experiences shape their perceptions of the world and their own body image


Two women in a therapy session, one with a notebook and the other making a hand motion. Therapy is essential in eating disorder recovery, but only one that considers the intersectionality of our identities.

Intersectionality is an important consideration when thinking about body image. Different groups of people may have different views of what a desirable body looks like, and this can result in pressure to conform to the beauty ideals of their social or cultural group. However, because they may have multiple identities, a person may also deal with various conflicting beauty standards. 

Cultural Factors

For example, imagine a young woman named Maria. Maria is of Mexican descent and has cultural ties to her Mexican community. Within this community, there can be an ideal of beauty that values curvier figures as they are often associated with health and vitality. However, Maria also identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, which, in her individual experience, leads her to believe that beauty leans toward a more androgynous or fit body type. So, in this aspect of her identity, Maria might feel some pressure to have a different body type in order to conform. She doesn’t feel like her body falls completely into either of these ideals, causing her to think negatively about her body image. 

Cultural Competence

Manhattan Therapist sitting with client in a session considering all the factors at play with eating disorder recovery. Cultural competence is key when working with clients.

When considering how intersectionality plays with body image, it’s important for a therapist to be culturally competent so that they can consider all of the nuances associated with diverse identities and beauty standards. This cultural competence enables a therapist to provide more support and guidance by acknowledging the multifaceted nature of their clients’ experiences and helping them navigate the complex interplay between their intersecting identities and their body image concerns. It also ensures that the therapist can create a safe and inclusive space where clients feel understood and empowered to work toward a positive and healthy relationship with their bodies.

Acceptance and Respect

Two woman smiling after a successful therapy session in Brooklyn. Eating disorder recovery is possible with acceptance and respect between the client and therapist.

Regardless of your identities, remember that your body is neither a fad nor a trend; it is a unique and valuable component of who you are, deserving of love, acceptance and respect just as you are. Beauty standards can change with time and culture, so it’s essential to recognize that your worth is not determined by the latest fashion or fleeting ideals. Your body is an incredible, living vessel that carries you through life’s experiences, and it is unique in its own right. It’s not something to be altered to fit someone else’s idea of beauty. Embrace your body for all the wonderful things it allows you to do, and remember that self-acceptance and self-love should be at the core of how you view and treat your body.


At Manhattan Wellness, we understand that with all the messages we receive from the world, it can be difficult to maintain a positive narrative about ourselves. From social media, movies, and even people close to us, it can be hard to drown out the negative. So much so that our inner critic takes over and we forget to show ourselves the same compassion as others. That’s why our female therapists want to support you in building the confidence you need to reach your highest potential. Let us help you create an empowering narrative that will benefit all aspects of your life, from personal to professional. If you are interested in beginning counseling for women:

  1. Submit a Contact Form or Email Us at
  2. Learn More About Our Team and Our Areas of Expertise
  3. Begin Seeing Yourself in a Whole New Light!


Our therapists understand that building confidence takes time and that other issues can come up along the way. To better support you, we offer a variety of services to cater to your individual needs. The therapy services we offer are Therapy for Self Esteem, Anxiety Treatment, and therapy for dating and relationship issues. As well as therapy for college students, support for maternal mental health, body image therapy, and so much more. Are you feel like you’re not living the life you want and need to make changes? Let’s talk about it.

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