Ten tips that can help steer you toward a more positive self body image in the modern world.
I'm a female and a normal person of the world, so body shaming—whether from my own volition or someone else's—is nothing new. But I must (gladly and thankfully) admit: Over time, the desire to change certain parts of my body has been replaced by a deep appreciation and love for my body. These days, I don't waste much time wishing my body was different. For one, I know that I treat and feed my body well. For two, I've been with this body for more than three and a half decades, hundreds of hikes, years of school, a marriage, hard bike rides, many sports games, triathlons, days on the couch, surgeries, car and plane rides, swimming in the ocean and more fun adventures than I can count—and it has never let me down. And for three, this body is uniquely mine and one of the cool things that makes me different from everyone else around.
This realization—that I'm finally happy with and proud of my body—hit me as I was looking back at high school photos on a recent trip to my parents' home. What I saw in those photos was a beautiful, confident young woman. But what I remember feeling at the time those photos were snapped, when I was about 16 or 17, was the wish to have skinnier legs, better skin, wavy hair and smaller muscles. I thought about how much time I wasted wishing my body looked a different way. Little did I know there would be a day that I would look back and see only the good things.
I'm glad I came to this conclusion sooner rather than later in life. Now I can spend my time thanking my body for all we've done together, prepping it for everything we have yet to do together, and loving it every step of the way. If you're not there yet and you still find yourself shaming your body or longing for something different, here are 10 steps, from the National Eating Disorders Association, that can help steer you toward a more positive self body image.
- Appreciate all that your body can do. Every day your body carries you closer to your dreams. Celebrate all of the amazing things your body does for you—running, dancing, breathing, laughing, dreaming, etc.
- Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. Read your list often. Add to it as you become aware of more things to like about yourself.
- Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin deep. When you feel good about yourself and who you are, you carry yourself with a sense of confidence, self-acceptance and openness that makes you beautiful regardless of whether you physically look like a supermodel. Beauty is a state of mind, not a state of your body.
- Look at yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you want others to see you—as a whole person.
- Surround yourself with positive people. It is easier to feel good about yourself and your body when you are around others who are supportive and who recognize the importance of liking yourself just as you naturally are.
- Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person. You can overpower those negative thoughts with positive ones. The next time you start to tear yourself down, build yourself back up with a few quick affirmations that work for you.
- Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. Work with your body, not against it.
- Become a critical viewer of social and media messages. Pay attention to images, slogans or attitudes that make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Protest these messages: write a letter to the advertiser or talk back to the image or message
- Do something nice for yourself—something that lets your body know you appreciate it. Take a bubble bath, make time for a nap, find a peaceful place outside to relax.
- Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories and your weight to do something to help others. Sometimes reaching out to other people can help you feel better about yourself and can make a positive change in our world.