Body Image can feel like an impassible mountain or an endless pit. Listen, there is a lot of messaging going on about bodies. Maybe you are in the theater community and are feeling angry because of the New York Times Article last week that body shamed performers (wording in the article has since been changed) (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/05/theater/broadway-reopening-new-york.html) , or maybe you are privy to the TIK TOK debate about plus size and mid size bodies. Or, maybe you are simply struggling with the way you view your own body.
Whatever you are feeling or going through, know that you are not alone. We are conditioned to believe our bodies aren’t good enough, and because of that we aren’t good enough. But, that is simply not true. On their instagram @beauty_redefiend, Lindsay and Lexie Kite, PhD, say, “Positive body image isn’t believe your body looks good, it’s knowing your body is good, regardless of how it looks.”
Healing body image is about respecting your body for all that it is and does. This is not only easy, but here I will share 8 ways to improve your body image and take significant steps towards loving yourself, once and for all.
What if instead of picking apart your body, your practiced gratitude for it? Do you know how much work your body does, without a single thought? Think of all the inner workings going on in your body at any given moment. It’s astounding.
Make a list of all the things you can think of that your body does for you, day to day. For example, breathing, smiling, smelling, standing, sitting, singing, walking, digesting, listening…this list could go on forever.
Then when moments of judgement or criticism come up, call on this list! Use Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s “And” Practice from the Intuitive Eating Workbook. When you are feeling uncomfortable in your body, acknowledge the discomfort, AND add three things you admire about yourself.
For example, I am uncomfortable with how my body feels in these jeans, and I am a good listener, I have a great sense of humor, and a loving partner. Practice gratitude for all you are, instead of laser focusing on what you see as your shortcomings.
When you do find yourself in the midst of a bad body image moment, try having a little respect. Think of someone you look up to. If they were going through a tough time, how would you treat them? What would you say to them?
Just because you are not feeling the self-love, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve respect. In fact, maybe it means you deserve more. Respecting your body means not poking and prodding, speaking to yourself in a kind way, wearing comfortable clothes, nourishing yourself, and moving yourself with compassion and love. Tough body image moments can send up into a spiral of self-punishment. Instead, trying infusing those moments with respect.
We live in a world with immense diversity. Different sizes, shapes, colors, sexual identities, abilities, cultures, and so much more. However, the media would have us believe that there is a cookie cutter mold that we should all fit in. We are overwhelmed with images of bodies that look like a VERY SMALL percentage of the population. So what do we do?
Well, of course there are lots of pitfalls to social media, but one thing we can use to our advantage is exposure. So, to begin to change your own internalized beauty standards, and heal your body image, diversify your social media feeds. Follow people in different bodies, from different experiences. Watch them find success and lead happy lives.
Here are some accounts I highly recommend following: Meg Boggs, Virgie Tovar, Mik Zazon, Alicia Mccarvell, Tiffany Ima, Alex Dacy, Kelvin Davis, Candace Molatore, Courtney, Dr. Joshua Wolrich, Kenny Ethan Jones, Stevie Blane, Megan Jayne Crabbe, and so many more.
The way that you talk to yourself matters, but sometimes speaking to ourselves kindly, with love can feel…disingenuous.
That is okay. For now, give in to feeling a little corny. Say the nice thing, whether you believe it or not, and then move on. Don’t overthink it.
For example, if you pass a mirror and have a passing thought of judgement or critique like my arms look gross, I challenge you to stop. Face yourself, and say one nice thing. Maybe you thank your body for getting to this point in the day, maybe you compliment your hair or your eyes, or maybe you look at your arms and think thank you for lifting my groceries and hugging my loved ones. And then, continue with your day.
This might feel weird at first, but the more you do it, the more you will believe it. Trust me.
One of the most helpful things I have ever learned is this: your emotions are true, and your thoughts are just stories you tell yourself to make sense of these emotions. Woah. Amiright?
Listen, our thoughts can tell us wild stories, and if we stay in our own heads for too long, especially with emotionally charged things like body image, it can get pretty overwhelming. So, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is get out of your head and back into your body.
Many people find mediating helpful in getting grounded in their bodies. But mediation takes practice. If you are not practiced in mediation or need something a little more immediate, try dancing to your favorite song, painting, sculpting, stretching, breathing, even walking barefoot outside. Pick something that allows you to zone out and really feel the sensations in your body.
Feelings about body image can feel isolating and overwhelming. But, you are not alone, and there are some AMAZING resources out there to help. Don’t sleep in these amazing books, movies, and more. Let them help you build the world and the self-image you want.
Some of my top recommendations are Embrace (movie), The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor, More Than A Body, Body Kindness, among many others.
You are more than a body. Your body is just the vessel that holds all the wonderful things that make up the person you are. It’s time that you saw yourself for all that you are. Make a list of all the qualities you value in yourself. Take your time. This can be difficult to do. There are no wrong answers. Don’t second guess, just list.
If you feel stumped, try asking a friend to share what they love about you. Again, don’t question it. Just accept what they say as truth.
How does it feel to see yourself as more than a body? What parts of you are more valuable then the way you look?
We are not taught to respect and value our bodies. We are taught to manipulate, dissect, prode, squeeze, and shrink them. So, we are left disillusioned, dissatisfied, and uncomfortable in our own skin. But, the truth is, your value is so much greater than your size, shape, color, ability, or any other physical quality. The best part of your body is that it allows you to live, breathe, and exist in this world, and we are so lucky to have you.
Although it might seem like a pipe dream, making peace with your body is possible, and it is possible for you! Start with these 8 tips and keep moving forward, with respect, love, compassion, and curiosity. You’ve got this.
Healing your body image takes work. It is not a linear journey, and it is okay to seek help. Investing in yourself means that you are valuing yourself, your success, and your time. This is a brave, courageous, and special thing to do. You are worth your own effort, and worthy of supporting. You do not have to do this on your own.
If you need help or have any questions on this journey, get in touch with me HERE. I would be thrilled to support you or guide you in the most helpful direction.