That being said, the majority of women — and yes, men too — struggle with a negative body image, to one degree or another. Even (or maybe especially) super models, athletes, and actors/actresses who symbolize confidence, beauty and strength — ranging from Kate Hudson to Anne Hathaway, from Dwayne Wade to Kate Winslet — have started opening up about how much they have struggled with body confidence. Sadly, just today, Daily Mail confirmed the suicide of Natasha Frodsham after she developed “body confidence” issues. She was 17 years old.
So how do we overcome the preoccupation and stress when our appearance matters too much, when we feel shame about our bodies, when by comparison to others, we never feel “enough?” Here are 8 tips to help build a loving and positive relationship with our body, which begins with the power of our mind:
1. CHANGE THE SUBJECT
Whatever we focus on, this becomes our reality. If we focus too much on our physical appearance, and particularly on what’s wrong with our bodies, this will attract thoughts, feelings and life experiences that reinforce the lack we feel. Catch yourself when you become preoccupied with your body and change the subject. For example:
- Rather than engaging in “fat talk” with your friends, talk about the best part of your work out or what you value about your friendship.
- Think about people you care about who are going through a hard time. Pray for them, reach out, offer a hand, a shoulder or an ear.
- Keep a list of your gifts and qualities. Branch out and emphasize all aspects and blessings in your life and within yourself.
2. BE GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOUR BODY CAN DO
Appreciate what your body can DO more than how it looks. Open a grateful eye to the blessings your body affords you, close the critical eye dissecting your body’s appearance. This reminds me of a story.
When our daughter was 7 years old, I started a game called, “What’s Your Favorite Body Part.” Much to my surprise, she asked me to go first. Caught off guard by the ball in my court, I realized how ungrateful and critical my attitude was about the very body that birthed and nursed our beloved children.
After snapping out of my absurd judgment, I answered from the true lens through which I wanted her to see. “My hands are my favorite, because they hold your hand and braid your hair. They build and cook, write and dance. These hands lift you up and caress your face.”
“Wow!” she said, turning her hands with wonder. “Hands are great!”
“Your turn,” I say.
She smiled up at me with blueberry eyes, her face beaming with decision. “My eyes are my favorite, Mommy, ’cause without my eyes, I couldn’t see you.”
3. INVEST IN YOUR BODY BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT
Take action to do your best to feel healthy and attractive. Listen to your body’s messages with love; take care of what you sense it needs. The goal is not to stop caring. But rather to care in a balanced way, expressed through effort and action that will build your health, confidence and beautiful mind. Invest not to validate your worth but because you are already worth it.
4. HONOR WHO YOU ARE: BE BETTER NOT PERFECT
We need to stop craving to be like someone else; rather accept and appreciate who we are and how we are sized and shaped. Life is not a race or contest, but a journey to become our best. Beware of comparing, perfectionism and jealousy. These tendencies are merely a test to rise above into a life of greater peace, purpose and empowerment.
5. SELF TALK LIKE A BEST FRIEND
Keep track of your inner thoughts and feelings. Even write them down. Catch the negative self talk and TURN IT AROUND into an unconditionally loving and affirming conversation with your body. For example,
- I appreciate my glorious body.
- I am a beautiful being, in my own unique way.
- Every cell in my body is loved.
- I am beautiful in mind, body and spirit.
- I am healthy, healed and whole.
- Every day my inner beauty shines brighter than before.
- Being beautiful is easy – I just think beautiful thoughts and it shows.
6. BUST YOUR BODY BULLY
So many of us have internalized messages from some time in the past when others said hurtful things about us. Being bullied — whether that be Tracy from 5th grade or Mom your whole life — can leave a bad radio station playing without us even realizing it. Identify those messages, write them down, notice how they make you feel. Then you get to decide what beliefs you want to live by.
7. SET GOOD BOUNDARIES
We need to be meticulous with what we allow our eyes, ears and minds to be exposed to - and the kind of people. If we are around gossipers who cut people down or talk about dieting and obsess over body fat, then guess what? Research shows our own body image will go down. Try to put yourself in, and do your part to create, an environment that promotes acceptance and unconditional love, personal growth and sharing, purpose and human dignity.
8. LET YOUR INNER LIGHT SHINE
You know those people who don’t necessarily fit into “magazine standards” but they exude overwhelming beauty and radiance? Their body shape and size are actually irrelevant; they simply SHINE FROM POSITIVITY. These are exceptional souls who radiate happiness, acceptance and care, who focus on what they can share, how they can listen, what needs to be done. They seize what life has in store, regardless of the nay-sayers around them, with an inner joy that leaves a trail of light wherever they go. These beacons are less busy with what they are missing, in fact, not really busy with themselves at all. They are true givers in the best sense of the word because they love and believe in themselves enough to be able to get out of their own way and share their goodness. Let’s do that.