8 Ways to Improve Your Body Image
What is body image?
Body image is how you see yourself when you look in the mirror. How you picture yourself in your own mind. It is a mixture of the thoughts and feelings that you have about your body. Ask yourself these questions to get started. Write down your answers:
- What do I believe about my appearance?
- How do I think about my body (ie. height, shape, weight)?
- How do I feel in my body?
- Do I think my self-worth is connected to my body and my appearance?
Chances are your responses to these questions can shed some light on your personal relationship with your body.
So what can you do to improve how you feel about your body?
Although, my list on improving your body image cannot automatically shift your views of your body to become accepting and appreciative. It certainly can be a place to begin.
1) Acknowledge what your body allows you to do.
List as many things as you can think of that you are grateful for in terms of all that your body enables you to do.
Examples: Laughing, walking with a friend, breathing, playing with your kids, creating, cooking.
2) Create a list of your non-physical traits you feel grateful for.
Focus on things that aren’t related to how much you weigh or what you look like. I encourage you to read this list often, and add to it as you become more aware of things you like/admire about yourself.
Examples: I am authentic, I am a good listener, I am kind to people, I am financially responsible, I take care of myself, I am ambitious, I am intelligent, I am creative, I can make people laugh.
3) Surround yourself with body positive people.
If you spend your time with others who also strive to accept themselves just as they naturally are, it will be easier for you to feel more grateful. You will be more accepting of yourself and your body. This is where boundary setting might come in handy.
4) Wear clothes that help you to feel more accepting of your body.
Your clothes need to fit you. You don’t need to fit into your clothes. I want you to pause right now and read those two sentences again before you keep reading.
If a piece of clothing doesn’t flatter you, that doesn’t mean something is wrong with your body. It means there is something wrong with that piece of clothing.
5) Shift focus away from unhelpful thoughts.
What are you telling yourself about your body? Is it helpful or unhelpful? Shift to a ‘coping statement’ or ‘balanced self thought’ even if you don’t believe it right away.
Examples: “I am not more valuable if I take up less space.” “My weight is the least interesting thing about me.” “I don’t need a flat stomach to be worthy.”
6) Try to resist urges to compare yourself to others.
Dissatisfaction with your body can often times be impacted from: comparing yourself to your friends, family members, and even celebrities or people you see on social media (more on social media in #7). Take what you learned from #2 (focus on non-physical traits) and admire the good qualities you notice in that person you initially caught yourself body-comparing to.
7) Challenge social media.
Take a good look at the accounts/people you have chosen to follow on social media. Unfollow those accounts that glorify the “perfect body” and make you feel bad and critical of yourself. Many times those images that you see are not truthful, realistic, or even “healthy.” How much a person weighs does not determine their health.
The next time you have negative thoughts about your body, think of them as Instagram or Facebook ads. You can either read the caption, go to the page or website, click on the products, and buy them OR you can just acknowledge them and keep on scrolling.
8) Commit to doing things that make you feel good.
Your life is so much more than how you look, yet your negative body image can dictate what you choose to do throughout your day. Have you ever had an experience where your body image contributed to you saying no to something? Practice giving yourself permission to step into things that are purposeful or helpful to you.
Examples: Spend time with your friends, go to that yoga class, allow yourself to rest, help a family member with something, go out to that new restaurant with your partner.
What does positive body image really mean then?
You might be thinking the switch from hating your body to loving it feels overwhelming and impossible. I want you to work on accepting your body for what it is right now, instead of having the expectation you need to love it. Eventually, you can work toward being grateful that your body is your home instead of being a measure of your worth or value.
Positive body image means not spending so much time thinking about how your body looks, because you are busy just living your life. When you have done the work to improve your body image, you will have reconnected with your true values, which body-shame has kept you from.
I hope something in this article has resonated with you. If so, please reach out to me if you are interested in psychotherapy services aligned with improving body image. I offer free 20-minute consultations by phone or in-person.
Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?
Deva Murphy, MSW, LCSW
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