Does your physical appearance dictate your self-worth, confidence, or happiness level? In today’s society, it is all too common for magazines to use Photoshop and airbrushed images, which ultimately leads to unrealistic expectations and unattainable standards. Likewise, how often do you hear people arguing and bickering about the size of their bodies, asking if this makes ‘me’ look too fat, or stating that they should skip dessert? Other individuals may make body comparisons, decline social invitations due to self-doubts, or try on 20 different outfits before feeling somewhat satisfied. Each are indicators of someone who may be experiencing poor body image—which to often leads to eating disorders and other emotional problems. To improve your self-worth, consider these 5 body image boosters.
Consider the functions and purposes of your body. Create a gratitude list of what your body allows you to do on a daily basis, such as playing an instrument, walking to get the newspaper, dancing at concerts, lifting groceries, walking up stairs, or typing an email to a friend. Your body gives you life, breath, and mobility. It also allows you to communicate through crying, laughing, and smiling. Consider your body your personal automobile, asking yourself if you want to fuel it up with positive self-talk or run on empty with negative self-talk. This will also help build self-acceptance.
Change your language and environment. Negative body image talk only fuels negative feelings and emotions about our bodies and ourselves. Invite people into your life who provide support and who see beyond physical characteristics and attributes. When you hear other women and men bashing and shaming their bodies, challenge their statements or indicate your discomfort with that topic. Change the focus because negative body talk is contagious. Rather than meeting a friend for lunch or shopping, consider a different context such as a bookstore or park.
Use your voice. Tell others when hearing comments about physical appearance and weight negatively influence you. This doesn’t have to be communicated in an aggressive way, but rather in a gentle and compassionate way that builds and encourages all parties involved. Other ways for self-expression are to journal or to write sticky notes describing what makes you unique outside of weight and physical attributes. No two people are alike, so consider your other achievements and positive qualities. Ask friends and family for what they admire and respect about you. Repeat to yourself that a number on a scale or the size of a body part is not indicative of your self-worth.
Listen to your body and its’ needs. It is easy for humans to fall into the comparison trap. The problem is that we all have different needs. Are you choosing a lighter meal or salad because your friend is, or because that is really what is best for you? Someone who exercises or is more active on a day-to-day basis will need more fuel than someone who is less active. The problem is that we often don’t see the full picture and that is when comparisons can become self-defeating. Likewise, healthy eating does not equal dieting. Before going with the pack, take a step back and listen to your body and its needs.
End unhealthy relationships. If friends or significant others make negative comments and fuel an unhealthy dialogue with yourself, consider taking a break or limiting toxic interactions. Life is too precious to spend it with people who make you feel bad about yourself, who don’t appreciate your positive qualities, and who are only focused on the external appearances. This also serves as an act of self-care and personal empowerment—you have the power and control to decide whom you hang out with and for how long. Choose wisely and choose people who love you unconditionally.
For more support, consider scheduling an appointment with a local psychologist or counselor. Talking about these concerns with an objective perspective can also be beneficial. Professionals can help you better identify between an unhealthy and healthy voice, and help you achieve a more realistic self-image.
About the Author, Mary-Catherine Riner, PhD