12 Steps to Improve Your Body Image
There’s a good chance that you or someone you know suffers from some form of body image issues. Having a less-than-perfect body is nothing new. For decades, men and women have been shown “ideal” or “most desirable” body image via adverts, film and television programmes. The advent of social media further promoted these concepts.
Social media trolls also exacerbated the amount of bullying and body-shaming that exists in society. These attacks and their sometimes disastrous consequences have sparked a much-needed debate on body image and have led to some needed changes in the advertising community. An increasing number of companies are beginning to show “real” people in their advertisements and many companies have introduced campaigns to promote positive body image.
While many of these campaigns are aimed at young girls and women, in general, negative body image is a fairly non-gender specific issue. In all honesty, most of us have a couple of areas where we would like to improve. Some of those thoughts may well lead us to make positive changes in our lifestyle. Nonetheless, it is important to avoid drastic and often mentally and physically unhealthy courses of action.
To that end, we present here 12 steps to foster a more positive body image:
1. Practice self-compassion
Instead of trying to achieve the unrealistic images portrayed in the media, develop a level of self-compassion. Focus on how your body feels rather than how it looks. Self-compassion allows us to be more in touch with our sensations including pleasure and pain, hunger and fullness, and overall physical health. We become aware of the truly wonderful things that our bodies can do and focus less on self-objectification. Practicing self-compassion has been proven to improve both physical and mental health, thereby leading to a positive body image.
2. Respect your body
Many of us exercise or eat specific foods as a way to control our bodies and have the goal of making ourselves “look better.” Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising makes us feel better, which is the main reason for doing both. Too many people approach both as a type of “self-punishment” which can prevent the positive effects of both.
3. Stop being judgmental
All too often we judge ourselves or others negatively based on factors such as size, weight or other superficial attributes. When you find yourself doing this, look for positives to replace the negative feelings. This will condition your brain to start paying more attention to the positive aspects of yourself or others.
4. Wear what works
Media tries to drive home the point that in order to be noticed, we need to sport the latest styles. No matter what type of body we have, some styles simply do not work for us. Wear what is comfortable and what works with and compliments your body type.
5. Remember you are not alone
Everyone has body image challenges from time to time. It is important to remember that no matter how “perfect” you think someone is, they probably will have had some kind of body image issues.
6. Appreciate your body
When you think of it, your body can and will do some amazing things. Take a couple of moments to realize the number of things you are able to accomplish and enjoy. This will increase your awareness of just how wonderful your body really is.
7. Create a personal inventory
Write a list of things you like about yourself. The list does not have to be only about your body, but every aspect of your life; then read it every day until it becomes a regular part of your daily thought process.
8. Take an inventory of your friends
The people we surround ourselves with can have a profound effect on our outlook on ourselves and others. People who are overly judgmental and negative promote negative and self-critical thinking.
9. Become a media critic
Our image of an ideal or a “perfect” body often comes from the media. Learn to judge the social media messages and adverts you see and do not fail to point out negative stereotypes or harmful messages.
10. Do nice things for yourself each week
Simple indulgences that show your appreciation for your body go a long way toward enhancing your body image. This can include things like getting a massage, going for a walk or even taking a nap.
11. Meditate for a few minutes daily
The benefits of meditation have been known for thousands of years. Spend about 10 minutes a day in quiet reflection, concentrating only on your breathing. Many people feel that meditation means you have to clear your mind of all thoughts – that is not the case. Let your thoughts flow freely and let your mind answer the questions and feelings you experience while meditating. If self-punishing thoughts enter your mind, deal with them in a calm manner, focusing on why you feel negative about yourself and then on the reason why these are simply not valid. All of us have some aspect of our body that we simply cannot change. We are unlikely to ever become taller or shorter, for instance. Meditation can help us dismiss the negative feelings about things that we cannot alter.
12. Stop avoiding your own image
Many people with a negative body image avoid confronting their own image. They avoid looking in mirrors or dislike having their picture taken. Facing our image head-on will often destroy the self-punishing thoughts we have. Often the aspect of our bodies we dislike most will simply not exist when we look at ourselves as critically and as objectively as possible. Avoiding our own image gives our inner critic a stronger voice; confronting our inner critic can silence it.
Dealing with our negative body image thoughts has not just one benefit. As our body image improves, we will also notice other benefits as well. These can be such things as taking up a new hobby, meeting new people and experiencing new things.
Nobody is “perfect”. Your body is a great gift and is capable of wonderful things. Don’t punish yourself for so-called “shortcomings”. Instead, take the time to appreciate and revel in the wonders your body has to offer.
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