Many people struggle with body image, both women and men. It is rare in our culture to find a person who is completely satisfied with how their body looks.
Body image is the mental image you have of your body, along with your attitudes, feelings and beliefs about your body. If you struggle with negative body image, you may say unkind things to yourself about how you look, focus on your (perceived) imperfections, avoid wearing particular clothing for fear of exposing your “flaws,” or perhaps punish your body with a new diet or grueling exercise. Unfortunately, negative body image is far more common, and when considering that our culture is obsessed with thinness and “perfection,” it makes sense. Social media photos, photoshopped images and advertisements, the unrelenting portrayal of thin bodies in the media, and the opinions of friends and family members - all greatly influence your body image. It’s no surprise that you miss the positive and empowering aspects of your body.
To begin to improve your body image and feel better about yourself, you can start with showing your body kindness. Showing your body kindness means nourishing your body with foods you enjoy, engaging in joyful movement, prioritizing self-care, and speaking to yourself with compassion and gentleness. For many, the idea of showing your body kindness can feel impossible, however you don’t have to love your body to treat it with some respect. Here are other ways that you show your body some kindness:
Comparing your body to someone else’s body (usually photoshopped or otherwise altered) is a trap. You probable already know this, but here’s a reminder: most of the images you see in the media are not real. Moreover, body diversity is part of life and it is a good thing. Your body is unique and simply cannot look like anyone else’s.
Appreciate What Your Body Does For You
Your body is an incredible organism that has evolved over millions of years. Imagine the myriad tasks it accomplishes without any conscious effort from you - it keeps you warm and cools you down; it fends off illnesses, threats and injuries; it supports and carries you; it transforms foods into brain power and energy; it connects you to your loved ones through touch and sensation; and it guides you toward the things/people/foods that are good for you via your desires and intuition. When you find yourself saying mean things about your body, add in some friendly comments about the miraculous things your body does for you.
Have Fun Moving Your Body
Joyful movement can be one of life’s greatest pleasures, and is a good way to connect with your body in a friendly, empowering way. In contrast to grueling exercise, the goal of moving your body is to enjoy yourself and develop trust and appreciation for your many capabilities. By listening to the messages of your body, you can learn to engage in the physical activities that work for you, and will therefore be beneficial for your mental health, physical health, and body image. Experiment with different activities like walking, gardening, hiking, dancing, yoga, gentle stretching, and if you are tired, perhaps a nap is best. Do what you enjoy and what feels right for your unique body.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Life is complex and requires enormous fortitude. By showing yourself kindness, you are signaling to yourself and your friends, family and co-workers that despite your (perceived) imperfections - your body matters. By practicing self-compassion you are deliberately nurturing yourself, which can improve your body image and reduces the shame spiral. For some, self-compassion looks like self-forgiveness and the recognition that “mistakes” and “failures” are part of life and do not diminish your value as a human being. For others, self-compassion might look like saying to yourself, “my body does a good job of keeping me safe, supported and alive” when negative thoughts intrude.
When negative ideas about your body persist, it may feel impossible to stop them. These thoughts and feelings can be very painful, and may impede your ability to enjoy your life to the fullest. Working with a therapist can help tremendously.
If you’d like to learn more about improving your body image, please call 971-240-8965 or email me to schedule an appointment. I offer a free initial consultation and would be happy to help you improve your body image, happiness, and well-being.