We have an important question: How do you feel when you look in the mirror? Better yet, how do you feel when you see a picture of yourself posted online by a friend?
If your thoughts are positive, that’s awesome. But, if you immediately start picking yourself apart and texting your friend, begging her to untag you, you’re not alone. Millions of people struggle with self-esteem and negative body image.
How you see yourself can greatly impact your life, from how you present yourself, how you interact with those around you, and even the types of jobs you apply for.
Anyone can have insecurities about their appearance, not just those who consider themselves less attractive. Sure, we all get into a funk from time to time, but if you constantly look in the mirror and hate what you see, it’s time to make a change!
Why Is It So Hard To Maintain Body Positivity?
Unfortunately, it is probably not surprising that body dissatisfaction and negative body image are incredibly common. With media images that showcase the so-called perfect body (usually airbrushed, photo-shopped, and not even real), it’s almost impossible not to have body image issues.
It seems like everywhere we turn, someone is trying to sell us something to be artificially prettier, skinnier, and just better in general. We have become so used to those media messages that we sometimes forget their purpose: They are designed to make us feel bad so that we buy things in hopes of feeling better.
It’s a cruel joke, one that has only gotten worse with social media. It’s no longer just celebrities who are peddling their wares and claiming that a new miracle cream has gotten rid of their cellulite. Thanks to the new influencer culture, it now appears that just about anyone could have the perfect body, face, and hair, if only they fork over the cash.
Some people on social media really do mean well. They might be simply giving you their recipe for a DIY face mask that helps clear their skin.
But the background noise is still there. That little voice tells you that the most important thing in life is to look good. Sadly, low self-esteem is what sells, and it’s so ingrained in our culture that we often don’t even realize we are selling it to ourselves.
What Is the Danger of Chronic Low Self-Esteem?
You may be wondering how poor self-esteem can affect a person. It almost seems as though self-deprecating jokes and poking fun at oneself are the norm these days, but there is definitely a certain danger in engaging in negative self-talk.
Those who are consistently down on themselves and their appearance may suffer from:
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
- Constant negative thoughts
- Chronic body dissatisfaction
- Other mental health issues
Worst of all, we can pass this on to the people around us: our friends, family, and most importantly, our children. For every mom hiding behind her kids for the yearly picture on the beach, there are the kids who see her doing it. It’s up to us to break the cycle and learn how to combat the low self-esteem that is harming us.
What Are Some Tips for Developing a Better Body Image?
Let’s jump right in! We have some time-tested ideas to help you develop the body positivity you need to push all those negative thoughts into the trash where they belong. It’s your own body, so own your body!
1. Talk to Yourself Like You Would to a Friend
Most of us are so used to negative self-talk that we don’t even think twice about it. We leave our keys on the counter and say, “Ugh, I’m such an idiot!” We see our friend in a short skirt and think, “I wish I could just be pretty and skinny like her.”
You are harming yourself even if you aren’t saying these things out loud. A good way to think about this is to pretend that whatever you’re saying or thinking is something you’re saying to a close friend.
Are you being kind, or are you being mean? Body image concerns shouldn’t consume you and your thoughts. If you notice negative thoughts, nip them in the bud and remember to be nice to yourself.
2. Focus on Your Body’s Abilities
Rather than focusing on what your body looks like, it can be helpful to look at yourself as a whole person whose body parts are for functionality, not just appearance. Change your definition of the perfect body!
Doesn’t it make more sense that the ideal body can walk, run, or pick up your kids? If your arms are strong enough to carry grocery bags into the house, appreciate that fact.
Spending time focusing on the positives is the first step to body acceptance. Physical appearance is one thing, but the human body is amazing, and we should appreciate it.
3. Write Down Affirmations
Along the same lines, we’ve got to stay positive! One great way to do this is with affirmations, preferably ones you repeat daily. Some examples of helpful affirmations include:
- I love my body and what it can do.
- I am perfect just the way I am.
- Food is not the enemy, and I’m thankful for both healthy and yummy eating.
- I am worthy, confident, and strong.
Keep your affirmations simple, and try to repeat them daily. It might help to write them on an index card and put them in a spot where you will see them every morning.
4. Surround Yourself With Positive People
It’s a helluva lot easier to feel good about yourself when surrounded by positive people who feel good about themselves! Because we tend to reflect the qualities we see in others, those who are supportive and kind are the ones you want to be around.
If you feel you need a shift in the friend department, we know it’s not always easy to make new friends. Support groups can be a great way to meet like-minded people, and there are support groups for those struggling with body image issues.
5. Wear Comfortable Clothes That Fit Your Body Now
This is a big one. We all know that feeling of having nothing to wear, despite having a closet filled to the brim with clothes — ones that no longer fit.
You’ve got to bite the bullet and get rid of those clothes you are just waiting to diet your way into. Is it an expense to buy new clothes? Absolutely.
But what is the cost of feeling like crap every day when you wake up and get dressed? Try your local thrift store or your local Buy Nothing Group.
If you really can’t bring yourself to throw away or donate clothes, at least put them out of sight where they won’t torture you. Toss it all into a “skinny bin” and put the bin in the basement.
If you fit into them again someday, great! If not, no worries. Out of sight, out of mind.
6. Practice Actual Self-Care
The term has become so ubiquitous that its meaning has almost completely been erased. But we mean it — take care of yourself.
That means something different for everyone. In this case, you want to do things to send the message to your body that you appreciate it and all it can do.
Go for a relaxing walk, take a bubble bath, do exercise that you actually enjoy doing, or reach out and message or call a friend.
7. Keep a List of Reasons Why You’re Awesome
Start a top ten list of things you absolutely love (or like) about yourself. Make sure those things aren’t related to your weight or body shape. You might write down skills you have or character traits you appreciate about yourself.
Read your list often, and add to it whenever you think of another thing you like about yourself. You might be amazed at how much makes the list!
8. Stop Playing the Comparison Game
Body dissatisfaction most often comes from comparisons, whether to your peers or celebrities. For many of us, our earliest memories of feeling bad about ourselves stem from a middle school locker room or a negative run-in with the “popular” kids.
If you notice yourself starting to compare yourself to others, stop right there. Remind yourself that each of us is a unique individual. There is no perfect body. There is no ideal appearance.
9. Challenge the Fake News
It’s super important to remember that what you see on television, in magazines, and online is not always real. In fact, it rarely is. Challenge the unrealistic beauty expectations that you see in the media.
Remember that even when it’s real, it’s often fake because it’s unattainable for most of us mortals. We could look amazing, too, if we had a private chef, a personal trainer, and infinite time and money to work out (and get plastic surgery).
10. Keep Your Body Moving
We mean that literally — get moving! A little exercise can boost your endorphins and contribute to confidence in your strength and agility. This will improve your outlook on your body and what it can do.
Exercise can also decrease anxiety and depression, but usually only if you’re doing it for the “right” reasons. A 2015 study showed that people who do physical activity for functional purposes like cardiovascular health or overall fitness and wellness rather than appearance tend to have a more positive body image. The opposite is true for people who exercise solely for aesthetic purposes.
Not into exercise? Pick up a hobby! Instead of stressing about your appearance, do something else that makes you happy.
Positive feelings about yourself and your body are essential to your overall well-being. However, many of us have been brainwashed into body dissatisfaction and negative body image.
Media messages about how we should look and the ideal body type have hurt our ability to have a healthy body image. You can undo the damage, though! Actively work against the negative voice in your head, and find ways to love yourself and your body. You’ve got this!