Cultivating a Positive Body Image

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Cultivating a Positive Body Image

We live in a society where it can sometimes feel hard to love ourselves and our bodies. Media often shows photoshopped images of supermodels’ “perfect” bodies, alongside a flood of subtle negative comments reflecting assumptions that you have to look a certain way.

Many people struggle with scrutinizing parts of their bodies, feeling deeply dissatisfied with their physical looks or abilities, in a way that creates deep dissatisfaction. Sometimes, you may feel sucked in to the negative messages around you, anxiously feeling that everyone around you is more attractive or more deserving of admiration, feeling awkward and uncomfortable in your own skin.

However, it is possible to resist these messages, and have a more positive body image. When you look in the mirror, you can see yourself as you really are, feel proud of your uniqueness, and able to move with confidence and comfort. Recovery from eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other body image issues can be very hard work, and often needs a trained therapist to journey with you. But to supplement that work, here are some steps you can take to learn how to know and love your physical self.

Feel Good About Your Whole Self:
Your body ultimately does not exist for other people, but belongs to you. Your appearance is not the most important thing about you. Rather, your body is first and foremost the vehicle to your dreams. It is what you inhabit to be in the world, to do things that bring pleasure and purpose to you and other people around you.

Do things that feel good to you, and become aware of your ability to move in the world, and dress in a comfortable way that allows you to move easily. This can mean playing a sport, dancing, doing a creative activity or just going for a walk with your head held confidently high.

Appreciate How Your Body Feels:
To take your focus off of your fears of what other people might be thinking about your body, it can be good to instead think about what your body feels like. When you feel critical about what a part of you looks like, try drawing attention to how your skin, breathing, and stretching feels like.

One useful mental exercise is called a body scan meditation. Start by lying down and breathing slowly to relax into yourself. Then, draw your attention to your feet, thinking about what they feel like, noticing any sensations that happen when you direct your mental energy there.

After a few moments, move your attention to your ankles, and then legs, working your way up to your head. Breath evenly and deliberately, taking your time to lavish attention on every part of yourself.

Think Critically:
Old messages, experiences of bullying or criticism, as well as a media climate where bodies are shamed and compared can get absorbed, and cause great harm if left unexamined. Try to set yourself free from these critical thoughts. Practice “talking back” in your own mind, reminding yourself that critical messages about yourself are not true.

Think to yourself about all the things you like about yourself, and ways you can appreciate your own beauty. You can even create quick affirmations, or short sentences or phrases like “I am beautiful the way I am,” and repeat them to yourself over and over, or write them down and look at them every day.

Find Supportive People:
Often, men and women struggling with body image think they are all alone. Many people carry themselves with a lot of confidence, and keep their insecurities private, thinking they are the only ones. Any feelings that you are alone are far from the truth.

Many people are struggling with these same issues, and admitting can be an essential part of breaking its power. Supportive friends can hear your feelings, and may very well be able to identify with it. Together, you can encourage each other to realize your strength, beauty, and power.