The truth is, most of us have negative body image sometimes. Some days we feel happy or neutral about the way we look and the body we exist in, and some days we might feel very negative about our body or the way we look. We might struggle with disliking our body because of something someone said to us, or the constant stream of photoshopped and unrealistic images of bodies in the media. Or we may just have a belief that there is something about our bodies that doesn’t measure up to our own or someone else’s standard. Sometimes this negative perception-of-self leads to missing out on fully enjoying an experience because we feel self-conscious, or we get caught up in negative self talk that leads to negative moods. If this is something that is holding you back from living your best life, you may want to consider some ways that you can manage these thoughts and feelings.
Be Gentle With Yourself
The first way you can deal with negative perception of your body is by focusing on being kind to yourself and your body. If we are feeling bad about our bodies or the way we look it may lead to being very critical and hard on ourselves. We might get caught up in self talk about why we don’t eat better, exercise more, find clothes that are more flattering and on and on until we feel like total garbage not only about how we look, but our actions and who we are as a person. Sometimes the best way to reset is to do something kind for yourself or your body. Take a bubble bath, put on body lotion, stretch or put on comfy clothes. Make sure you are drinking enough water, and feed yourself something that will make you feel great. Being gentle with yourself may include accepting that you are struggling with how you look and choosing to treat yourself how you would treat a friend who confides they don’t like they way they look. Be kind in your words(thoughts) and actions. Give yourself permission to take care of your body and be kind and gentle.
Focus On "My body is an instrument, not an ornament." by Lindsay Kite, in her Ted Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDowwh0EU4w&feature=youtu.be
This is an idea that can really shift your mindset, because our culture often reduces people to bodies. The truth is we are so much more than the body we live in! Your body is simply a vessel that allows you to learn, teach, serve, connect, grow, think, work, move, and love. When you are struggling with the way your thighs or arms look try to focus on your body as an instrument that allows you to live an amazing life. Your legs carry you as your work, exercise, and travel. Your arms are an instrument that allows you to hug a friend, reach out to a partner, or hold a baby. You can focus on your body as an instrument by serving others, connecting with loved ones, engaging in exercise that makes you feel strong and empowered. It’s easy to get caught up in viewing our bodies as something to be looked at and admired because that’s what the media often focuses on, but when we use our bodies to engage in the important parts of life that make us feel great those messages don’t matter as much.
Get Inspired to Live (and Love) Your Life
Try surrounding yourself with people and organizations that inspire you. If you are surrounded by and engaged with organizations and people that are really meaningful for you about it’s harder to get hung up on distress over how your body looks and let that hold you back. This is a huge advantage of living in a time when we have so much access to social media because we can use our social media to focus on things we are passionate about. One of my favorite sources of body positivity that focuses on humans as more than bodies is Beauty Redefined(link). I follow them on instagram and they post amazing quotes and clips that inspire me. For you, it might be something totally different like rock-climbing, woodworking, a non profit that works for a cause you believe in, looking at or petting adorable puppies, home renovation projects, spending more time with family, learning about a place you want to travel to, or motivational words from a leader in your church but try to incorporate things on social media or in real life that inspire you to live your life. You may still notice some negative thoughts and feelings of discomfort about your body but if you feel inspired it might make the difference between discomfort holding you back and being able to push through those feelings and get involved in things that are really meaningful to you.
Challenge The Thought
Another way you can deal with negative perception of your body is by noticing and challenging your thoughts. It might be helpful to be mindful and try to notice the types of thoughts you have about your body or appearance. It makes sense that we will feel differently or have a different mindset if our thoughts are are “I feel so fat today” or “My body looks gross” like a broken record playing over and over again all day long. If we are able to notice these thoughts and how they are impacting our mood and behavior we can start trying to do something different. If you have a bad body image moment and the thought typically causes you to have spiral of further negative thoughts about yourself that lasts the rest of the day you can begin to address this pattern by challenging your thoughts with different rational like “I didn’t like the way I looked in that shirt, but I know I can find something I feel great in”. If you start feeling bad about yourself try challenging that thought with thinking of something you like about yourself or try to find an affirmation. One way you can challenge negative thoughts and behaviors as a result of negative perceptions of your body is covered in our video about Opposite Action (link).
Reach Out To Others
If you notice you have tried many of these things and are still struggling it might be time to reach out for some support. You can confide in a trusted friend or family member. It’s helpful to confide in someone you trust for support, or to help you figure out what else you can do. If you are engaging in unhelpful or extreme behaviors as a result of negative body image you likely will need to work with a professional such as a dietician, doctor, counselor or therapist. It’s helpful to have an objective third party individual to talk to because friends and family often express compliments or suggestions but aren’t able to understand the significance of how you feel or what you can do to really start feeling better.
I specialize in working with people with body image issues and insecurities and I’d love to help you. You can reach me at 435-799-5035 or email@example.com. If you need additional support, you can contact the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at (800) 931-2237.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDowwh0EU4w&feature=youtu.be https://beautyredefined.org https://www.facebook.com/familysolutionsutah/videos/237228546885330/https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
To direct means to organize, manage, and take control of. In order to have direction in our life we must organize, manage, and take control of our life. How do we take control of our life? By setting goals and creating structure in our lives. Structure is to construct or arrange according to a plan, give a pattern or organization to. You need to keep your life organized and on track to achieving your goals and improving. We can sometimes be too hard on ourselves if we fall short, or have an “off” day. What is important is that we are better today than we were yesterday, and if you have a day where that isn’t true then there is always tomorrow to be better. Don’t get caught up in comparing your life to others, it has never done anyone any good. Instead, compare yourself to your past self. Following the principles in this blog series you should see how far you’ve come. Just be better.
Purpose is the reason for which something exists. I hear people tell me that they are waiting to find out what their purpose is, like they are waiting for the universe to tell them who they should be or that they are trying to “discover themselves”. This is just not true! The purpose of life is to give life purpose. We must determine what we want our purpose in life to be and make it so. For me, part of my purpose in life is to help people to feel better about themselves. Because of my desired purpose, I went to school to get a degree that allowed me to be a therapist. Now I can fulfill my purpose of helping people feel better about themselves. Your purpose will be different and heavily influenced by your morals, values, and standards.
Having direction and purpose gives our life meaning. When we have meaning we feel valuable because we are not only improving ourselves through direction we are living according to our purpose. When we feel valuable it is hard to not love ourselves. Don’t give yourself an excuse to not like who you are, start making changes today.
Good self-care means taking care of ourselves. The truth is we take care of the things we love. If we want to love ourselves more, we need to take better care of ourselves. We do this in four different areas of our lives: Physical, psychological, social and spiritual.
Staying Positive in the present moment can change the way we view the world. We must view stress and the challenges of life as opportunities to grow and become better. Without opposition in our lives there would be nothing to make us stronger. Stress, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.However our view of stress can make it a bad thing. According to Kelly McGonigal, it’s our negative view of stress that makes it unhealthy. We should not avoid stress, but rather become better at stress. The way we do this is to simply view stress as a positive force that is driving us to overcome a challenge which will ultimately make us stronger; similar to the way a hurdler looks at a hurdle, or a rock climber sees the mountain. The best and most entertaining stories in life tell of someone overcoming some major difficulty, why should our lives be any different! Let no failure hold you back, but continue to stay positive and work on becoming better. And remember, nothing in this life that’s worth anything comes easily. (Making Stress Your Friend, TEDX)
Loving the Past, Present and Future You: Your Guide to Improving Self-Esteem
We often hear how it important it is to have high self-esteem. Yet, hearing about it and understanding how to achieve high self-esteem are very different. As a therapist, I’m often amazed at the incredible people I meet who admit they do not like themselves. I want to share with you what works in improving self-esteem, as I have seen it help so many others achieve their goal of loving themselves. This three part blog series will teach you to change the way you see yourself in the past, present, and future.
Positive psychology teaches us that the way we view our world affects 90% of our happiness. Only 10% of our happiness is determined by our actual environment. While living in Mendoza, Argentina I found this principle to be true. The people there have no middle class. You are either extremely wealthy or extremely poor. I found that the poor people were very happy even though they were living in mud brick houses, without cars, and eating the same few simple meals everyday. People in Argentina may even be happier because they are less focused on wealth, prominence, and power. Instead they are focused on relaxing, spending time with family, and enjoying life. They have much less than we do yet they are quite happy.
If you have a poor view of yourself the solution is to change your perception and then change your behavior. If we won’t allow ourselves to be happy until we achieve a goal, then we never really become happy. The reason for this is because when we achieve a goal we set a new goal and start working towards that goal. If we are only happy when we achieve a goal we only experience a brief moment of happiness. For example, if I think to myself, “I won’t be happy until I get a good job,” then the day will come when I will get a good job and inevitably someone will have a better job. At this point I might think to myself, “I have to get a better job.” The problem with this logic is that there will always be someone with a better job. We cannot put off happiness until we achieve our goals. Instead we must choose to be happy in the present while working on our goals
PART 1: Embracing our Past Self
1. We must accept our past for what it is. It does not matter what we may have done in our past, good or bad, it’s a part of who we are. If we are judging ourselves or feeling guilt or shame because of our past, then we are not allowing ourselves to progress and improve in the present. If you want to love yourself, you must accept what you have done and experiences you have had. We must only focus on what we can control and we cannot control the past. We can only view it as an opportunity to to learn from the experience and use it to become a better person.
2. We must forgive ourselves and others. Forgiveness is freedom and healing. When someone offends us or hurts us, naturally we want to retaliate; or at the very least hold a grudge. However, if we cannot forgive we hold on to all that hate, shame, fear, or anger. These feelings will eventually consume us and change our world view to a negative one. In the end this only hurts us further.
Elizabeth Smart once said, talking about the man who abducted and raped her, “Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. If I hold on to my anger for them [kidnappers], it takes away a part of my soul.” Now, forgiving someone and letting them back into your life are two completely different things. You may forgive someone and never see them again and they may never know you have forgiven them. Forgiveness is also a choice we have to make multiple times. We do not simply say, “I have forgiven you” and then everything is fine. Instead we must choose every time to forgive knowing that it will allow us to heal.
Forgiveness analogy: Being offended is like someone having stabbed you with a knife. You have two choices; take the knife out and allow yourself to heal, or leave the knife in. If you leave the knife in, it will become infected and eventually the infection will consume you and take your life. However, if you remove the knife you can allow your body to heal. There may always be a scar, but you will not become consumed by infection. Removing the knife is like forgiveness because it keeps us from continuing to be hurt. Leaving the knife in is like holding a grudge. Eventually the pain, grief, anger, or resentment will consume you. The person who hurt you may not deserve your forgiveness, but you deserve to forgive them.
3. We must forgive ourselves. If it is important for us to heal by forgiving others, how much more important would it be to forgive ourselves? When we are the ones who have offended or hurt ourselves, it is imperative that we learn to forgive. If we cannot forgive ourselves then the hate, anger, and resentment we hold towards ourselves will keep us from loving ourselves. Ultimately, this keeps us from improving and becoming a better person.
What's the next step? Check back next week for Part 2 of this series.
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