It’s a gorgeous autumn day in southeastern Pennsylvania! After church, my partner and I went to the wildlife refuge near our house and marveled at the sky, the trees, the waterfowl, and the tiny critters somewhat hidden from view…a garter snake, two frogs, a dozen wooly caterpillars, and a praying mantis (who we watched devour a caterpillar!). On days like these, when I am exercising my body and renewing my spirit at the same time, I love my body. I love that I had the energy to walk around the pond and explore the sights and sounds of nature.
However, as recently as a few days ago, I was struggling with negative body image — hyperfocus on just a few body parts that I deem “flawed” and relentless checking of my appearance in mirrors and pinching and squeezing parts I don’t like, as if to melt them away. I have written down my triggers for negative body image and I also recognize some of the real life situations since childhood that have contributed to how I view my body. But there are just some days when I really have to work hard to appreciate my body, as just one part of my whole self.
Knowing that others of you who read this also struggle with body dissatisfaction, I wanted to share some tips to improving body image, which were taken from the website, “Something Fishy“, which aims to raise awareness of disordered eating and provide support for those who struggle. Take a look and select a few things that you’d like to try over the next week or month. And, in the meantime…
Peace, joy, and health.
Tips to Improve Your Body Image (from the website, “Something Fishy“)
Do Self-affirmations daily! It’s what’s inside that counts.
Wear clothes you feel comfortable in. Don’t wear clothes that feel too tight or restrict movement. Don’t hold off on buying clothes you like — do it now! Dress to express yourself, not to impress others. You should feel good in what you wear.
Cut labels out of your clothes. The size on the tags shouldn’t dictate your mood for the day!
Stay away from the scale — as a matter of fact, get rid of it! If your weight needs to be monitored, leave that up to the doctors. How much you weigh should never affect your self-esteem or your sense of who you are.
Before you look in the mirror, think optimistically. When you start your day, decide how you are feeling before going to the mirror. No one looks good with bed-head, and our moods aren’t determined by the reflection we see. Start your day with self-affirmations, relax in a hot shower, think of all the positive ways you will cope with any stresses of the day ahead, and think of the things you have to be thankful for in your life… only then are you more prepared to face yourself with pride.
Talk to yourself at the mirror. Focus on what you like and remind yourself that it’s okay to like and appreciate what you see, no matter what size you are.
Stay away from fashion magazines. Let’s fact it, most fashion and women’s magazines focus on an ideal of beauty that is just not something anyone in real-life can be. Most models make up less than one percent of the human population when it comes to their size! In addition, each one has a staff of people to make them transform into what the final photo looks like — designers, make-up artists, camera people and lighting specialists, and photo retouchers (think “airbrush”). Unless you can look through these magazines knowing they are purely fantasy, it’s just better to stay away from them. Invest in magazines that contribute to who you are — News magazine, magazines that relate to positive hobbies and interests (art, music, sports, traveling, home decorating, gardening, etc.) — they make a magazine for just about everything these days… I even recently saw one just for beany-baby collecting!
Make a “why I like myself” list. Think of all the things about YOU that you like — are you honest? Creative? Intelligent? Compassionate? Loyal? Kind? Think of all the reason you deserve to love yourself and write them down. Hang the list up next to the mirror as a reminder that these things are what make you truly beautiful.
Take the time to do nice things for your body. One a month get a massage, a manicure, or a facial. Pamper yourself to long hot baths by candlelight. Get together with a friend and give each other pedicures. Buy lotions that feel and smell good and treat yourself to some perfume or body mist. Take naps when you need to, just because you can!
Take risks to challenge yourself. Think of things you normally wouldn’t do and try them (you’ll find out that the world won’t cave in) — leave the house without makeup, get a wild new haircut (how many years have you had that same hairdo???), spend all day in your pajamas or go out to run an errand in them. The point is, your makeup, hair and clothes do not make you who you are! Prove it!
Go places you’d never go alone. Ever go to a movie by yourself? Or enjoy a cup of coffee at the local cafe and read the paper? How about a fancy restaurant, dinner for one? These are treasured experiences, time spent with yourself, and that is the first person you need to get to know and love spending time with. Take the risk and try it!
Stay alert to fighting negative self-talk. When that little voice of doom pops up in your mind trying to remind you how horrible you think you are, have a strategy for turning those negatives to positives. No one is perfect! When you find yourself being self critical immediately stop and pay yourself a compliment!
Stay active. Movement therapy is something that helps improve everyone’s sense of being. Take up Yoga or Tai’ Chi. Join a Karate class. Take a thirty-minute walk three days a week. Get outside and play volleyball with the kids or go rollerskating in the park with your friends. Take a leisurely bike ride at sunrise. Make angels in the snow and sandcastles at the beach. Be active and enjoy life!
Ask for a hug when you need it. Sometimes there is no better therapy then a hug and a kind word from someone that cares about you, but our loved-ones aren’t mind readers! Tell them when you’re having a bad day and ask for a hug, a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen.
Protect the child in you. Look at children around you now — would you criticize them for being themselves? Are you focused on the weight of a five-year-old while you watch them play with friends? Wouldn’t you protect a child being picked on? Well you don’t deserve to be picked on either, and you don’t deserve to be picked on by yourself!
Remind yourself that the people who truly love you, love you for YOU, not for what you look like.
Remind yourself that looking healthy is something positive. It means that you are well rested, eating right and nurturing your soul. It means no more than that, and no less than that.
Read books that help you improve self-image. The author Sark writes some of my favorites!
Remember the whole world… We are all different and we’re supposed to be that way. It would be an incredibly boring world if we all looked exactly the same. It’s a truly special experience to look around and realize that everyone is beautiful, no matter what size, color or gender they are. There is beauty in everyone, and that includes you!