“It's also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that's sitting right here right now... with its aches and it pleasures... is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive."
~ Pema Chodron
The superego is the critical voice, often developed internally as a parent that is always judging and relentlessly harassing.
Listening intuitively and attentively to the different parts of ourselves can be illuminating.
The process of becoming aware of this inner critic is best done over time and incrementally.
When one hears the inner critic it is best to authoritatively disengage from it. To tell it to go away in no uncertain terms. So, each time the superego attacks your body and your sense of well being and self-worth it is good to get accomplished at recognizing and disengaging from that voice which would drive you into a negative and destructive place.
Refuse to listen!
Take charge and choose to be compassionate towards yourself and replace that negative voice with one that says something affirming and true. It is a journey that over time can really help to replace negative self-talk with a more loving and accepting attitude.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
Negative body image is something that many people, both men and women face on a daily basis. We are constantly bombarded with images that promote a certain “look,” that most of us simply do not have. The need to look like a Hollywood star is no longer reserved for those who make their living on the big and small screens; the average man or woman suddenly feels the need to be “perfect.” The truth of the matter is; there is no such image of perfection. Besides being a counselor, I am also an independent filmmaker and I am well aware of the great work that is involved in perfecting faces and bodies to achieve the “perfect” look.
The problem is that, most people are not privy to that experience and even if they were, the powerful suggestions to be perfect outweigh common logic at times.
The key to improving how men and women view themselves is to:
1. Learn to be a “perfect you”
2. Focus on what is right and work on weaknesses
3. Replace negative automatic thoughts with adaptive thoughts
When men and women grasp and accept the fact that self-actualization can lead to self-improvement, it will be easier to learn how to discover how to deliberately work towards being one’s personal best. When we base our standards for living on others, we always lose. When we strive to be our ideal selves, we do not work against ourselves in the process.
By switching focus on what is right about our bodies, we can then work to improve areas that need attention. For instance, an overweight woman who has birthed children can work on shedding a few pounds once she celebrates that her body was healthy enough to bare children. Then her motivation changes from “being perfect,” to continuing to take care of her body and subsequently taking care of her family.
When we engage in positive self-talk and monitor our positive intake, we lessen the chance that negative thoughts will evolve into negative and unhealthy actions. For example, when an overweight man can focus on the positive benefits of working hard to achieve his personal best, he is more likely to make healthy lifestyle changes.
This change is a process, but well worth it as men and women work towards physically and emotionally well being!
Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey – www.personallcounseling.com
Negative body image is rampant in the U.S. culture. It can be addressed and overcome through a number of ways, including such modalities as cognitive-behavioral therapy, spiritually focused therapy and coaching, and hypnotherapy. These interventions tend to work at a deeper level than do quick fixes, but I would like to suggest that a quick fix might be all that’s necessary for some people.
What would a quick fix look like?
It can be as simple as changing your clothes. Let me explain.
When I was a freshman in college, my Japanese roommate informed me that in Japan, when gifts are given they are wrapped according to their shape and size. In other words, gift-givers don’t place everything in a rectangle box and throw some paper and a bow on it. Wrapping a gift in a way that mirrors the contents makes each gift unique and special.
So, if you think of yourself as a gift to the world, think “unique and special.” Don’t fall for the rectangle box mentality which implies that only a certain shape is acceptable. Instead, wrap yourself up in a way that makes you look and feel special.
Look at yourself in the mirror and focus on the features that you really enjoy having.
Be proud of them. Play them up in a way that reflects your personality and values. Take note of the things you wish were different. Get creative and figure out how to either downplay them or turn them into a unique and special feature.
In short, think Japanese gift-giving. Wrap yourself up in a way that reflects the inner you. Wrap yourself up in a way that charms and intrigues us and makes us want to open you and enjoy your contents. Wrap yourself up in a way that lets us know that you are, indeed, unique and special— not just another rectangle box.
You are a gift. Delight us with your special packaging!
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier - www.sacreddreamscoaching.com
Poor self-image of the body may stem from a disconnection of the three essential elements of a human being: MIND, BODY and SPIRIT.
I liken the human to a three-legged stool with each leg representing one essential element of survival for a human (MIND, BODY, SPIRIT). When one leg is neglected, the stool can lose stability.
BODY. Numerous studies have linked exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women. Pressure from mass media to be muscular also appears to be related to body dissatisfaction among men. The media is clearly defining who we are and controlling how we feel about our image. Ironically, only 5% of the population is ever able to naturally achieve that ideal image (genetics!)
MIND. The MIND is a set of cognitive functions developed through intellectual activities such as reading, education and learning. An example of using the mind would be going back to school to learn and acquire a new skill set. Today, we tend to try to remove ourselves from the details of life. For example, we use electronic gadgets with reminder features. If you don’t sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it eventually begins to deteriorate.
SPIRIT. This world exists but cannot be quantified. Emotions, feelings, temperament, social skills and social connections all fall into this broad realm. If you are unaware of how you feel, you can easily misguide your unconscious emotions to unhealthy activities. If you feel sad but eat a gallon of ice cream then this is an example of being out of touch with emotions and how to express them appropriately.
Three Simple Keys to a Successful Body Image are to create a balanced focus on all three:
1. Body – A balanced and healthy emphasis on eating and exercise is one path to caring for the physical body.
2. Mind – Challenge your mental capacity by trying a new activity every three months. Reading a book, playing a crossword puzzle or taking a class are examples.
3. Spirit – This is a spiritual practice of religion, meditation or self-reflective activities such as therapy/self-help groups. It may be as simple as taking 10 minutes a day outdoors with contemplation of your inner world, passion, or life purpose.
Poor self-image is a sign that you are out of sync and need to seek help or re-evaluate your three-legged stool. I tell all my clients that they need to get a PhD in themselves. The greatest gifts you can give “you” in 2014 are the ability to self-reflect and know thyself.
Julie Kurtz, LMFT – www.juliekurtz.com
1. Actively appreciate differences:
Even if you do not currently appreciate your differences, practice appreciating the differences of others. Make a list of all of the people that you admire regardless of their weight or looks. Take note of what it is that makes their personality and looks attractive to you. The more in tune you are with the differences between people the more likely you are to think of difference (including your own) as attractive.
2. Identify the underlying belief:
Feeling ugly, fat, or wrinkly and allowing it to impact your self esteem is never truly about being ugly, fat, or wrinkly. When people become overly sensitive about their body issues there is usually something else underlying it. What pain inside are you masking with your concerns about the outside? For instance, some people feel lonely or unworthy. They allow these feelings to transform into the belief that only if they were prettier or skinnier that they might be more worthy or less lonely.
3. Take good care of yourself:
It can be hard to feel good about your body if you aren’t taking care of it. You might never be stick thin or look like an airbrushed super model but you can do things to increase your natural beauty. Cut out unhealthy foods, stay active, practice good hygiene.
4. Recognize the influence of the media:
Ask yourself “who exactly am I comparing myself to?” Become aware of the fact that you might often be comparing yourself to photoshopped pictures or sick people. The comparisons women and men make between themselves and media representations of people are very real and can be incredibly damaging. Be honest with yourself about the messages that you are taking in and how they are impacting you.
5. Take inventory on your body:
What are all the great things that your body CAN do? What aspects of your looks are unique? Have other people mentioned beautiful parts of you?
6. Let the positive win:
Many of my clients allow their negative voice to be so much louder than their positive voice. ” WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT TO THEMSELVES?” you ask. Well because they are human and most of us do it for some crazy reason. Give that positive voice a chance. When you hear the negative voice tell it to pipe down. If it’s hard at first, make a physical list of positive affirmations about yourself to look over regularly. You can even ask others to add to your list…I promise you that others see beautiful things about you that you are currently ignoring.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, MFT – www.abetterlifetherapy.com
As with any and all change we wish to achieve in our lives, we must start within. What we think about ourselves is in direct proportion to how we show up in the world and how we receive the love of others. If you truly desire to change a negative body image, the first step is to be dedicated to the process of “policing your thoughts”. However, one cannot magically go from “I’m fat. I’m ugly. I suck”, in an instant. For me, it was through the understanding of my Divine uniqueness, perfection and beauty that I came to be able to turn my negative self-image around.
Take a look around you. Is there really anyone that is perfect?
No, seriously. Anyone?
And what is perfection anyway?
Most likely it came from some self-perceived aspect that your own personality concocted or quite possibly the words that were spoken over you as you were forming your self-image. No matter what anyone has said, what you have said or what the media has said… It is simply not true. You see, one of the most fascinating aspects about this world is that we are all Divinely beautiful and on purpose. We were made precisely how we were supposed to be made and to think yourself anything less that the Universe’s work of art is detrimental to your self-esteem and the life that you were intended to live.
There is not one other person on this planet that is you. No one now and no one ever can or will be you. In that alone, you are amazing! This is the exact belief that when you come to understand, know, live and breathe daily will… change… your… life. Self-confidence is one the sexiest qualities and it comes easily when we release any negative images and thoughts we have about ourselves and learn to love ourselves exactly as we are. It does not take a perfect body to attract a great relationship.
So the question becomes, “Ok, so how do I do this?” Quite simply, by vigilantly taking each negative thought that arises and turning it around into a positive one. Stop wishing to be something physically other than what you are this very minute. In order to establish a positive self-image, love yourself exactly as you are right now and remember, what the mind thinks, the body follows.
Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor – www.sweetempowerment.com
“I am fat. I am ugly. I am disgusting.” How many times a day do you critically examine your body and physical appearance with negative judgment? Is it any wonder that your belief about your body often translates into a sense of low self-worth? Is it any surprise that looking a magazine or watching TV often leaves you feeling unattractive and not good enough?
Looking into the mirror is so much more than seeing just your physical reflection–what you see and believe becomes your self identity.
Sadly we live in world where physical appearance does matter and others do discriminate or judge based on size, color, or features. So how do you protect yourself from those constant messages that you are not good enough? How do you overcome this negative body image struggle?
1. Limit your exposure to magazines or the media.
Or at the very least become critical in your consumption. Notice that the images are most often altered, air brushed or digitally changed. Those paying for the advertisements want you to believe that if you buy their product and often alter your appearance, you too will be happy. The beauty/health and fitness industry is just that….an industry designed to make consumers buy their product.
2. Look at yourself and your body with kind, loving eyes.
Notice the overall package. Soften your eyes to love the whole image. Instead of critically zeroing in on your flaws, notice the features that you appreciate. Recognize their value. If you have specific body part that you tend to be more critical about, try writing a love letter to honor the value in that part (“Dear Belly, I love you because you are soft and curvy and protect my organs. You let me know when I am hungry.”).
3. Finally, focus on who you really are and want to become.
Your body is the shell in which you live. Yes, it is important to keep healthy but you are so much more than your body. Have you ever known someone that was absolutely gorgeous on the outside but mean spirited or superficial? Ever pay attention to how less attractive that person became? Or have you ever met someone that was not particularly attractive by society’s standards and once you really got to know the person, you found yourself admiring his or her beauty. Loving yourself from the inside often translates into loving your body!
Megan Logan, MSW, LCSW – www.meganloganlcsw.com
It is impossible to differentiate a personal sense of self from the way that person’s culture views him or her. That culture includes all ways that people at any age are valued physically, intellectually, sexually, and spiritually.
Those evaluations begin early in childhood and continue to be reinforced, challenged, or changed throughout life as a person succeeds or fails from one relationship to another. Parents who value intellect over physical acumen or musical ability over social adeptness, for example, will continually support their children in what and who they want them to become. As they grow, those children will then add peer evaluations, media expectations, and mentor support as new mirrors in which they seek their value. With each new evaluation, a person’s sense of self is enhanced, damaged, or restored.
Body image is only one of those constant internal and external reflections that can damage or increase an individual’s value as he or she navigates through social acceptance or rejection. Yet, it is disproportionately used as criteria for popularity, especially in a culture that spends so much time and money promoting it.
Just look at any dating site. If women are fearful of not being chosen, it will most often be about weight or age. Men, more often, worry about hairlines, height, sexual prowess, or adequate income. Both genders rarely go further if the profile picture is not to their liking. When professional photographers are sought out to create a desirable image, they use every means possible to make that the best it can be, often disappoint buyers when the real image is met.
There is only a very small percentage of truly beautiful people but they are the ones most of us compare ourselves to, because that is who we refer to as the standard of physical attractiveness. That conclusion leaves most of us with a less-than-desirable body image. Yet, most people would agree that, once knowing and loving a person deeply, all physical attributes or deficiencies are re-weighed in the light of other, more important factors. The difficulty is remembering that when the rejections mount up.
Confidence, love of life, openness to transformation, and enjoyment of experience shine through any exterior package. We can do whatever we can to make our physical self more saleable, but, beyond that, it is more up to energy and aura. People who are not physically superior but who know how to love and laugh can attract people that many more beautiful people cannot.
My wise grandmother once told me, “Be careful of the expressions on your face when you are young, because they will form the lines for when you are old.” That is true of all parts of personality. Your inner self will eventually come to the surface. That part of you can continually grow and become more beautiful. It is not bound by the pitfalls of genetics, limitations, or aging.
Dr. Randi Gunther - www.randigunther.com
Here is how you can change a negative body image:
1. Recognize what you don’t like about yourself. Pay attention to your thoughts. They will focus on the things you don’t like about your body.
2. Identify the emotions that surface after the thoughts. Emotions are triggered by thoughts. Common emotions associated with a negative body image are shame, disgust, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.
3. Recognize what is behind that dislike. Are you comparing yourself to others? Is it something that others have criticized? Do you have unreasonable expectations for yourself?
4. Work on rejecting the expectations that are unreasonable. No one is perfect. Let go of perfectionistic ideals that lead to you disliking your body.
5. Stop comparing yourself to anyone else. One of the main sources of a negative body image is the comparison of yourself to someone who looks like you want to look.
6. Work on treating your body right through healthy living and good choices. Learn to value yourself by taking good care of your body. When you treat your body right, you begin to feel better about it and when you feel better about your body, you naturally want to take care of it.
7. Change negative self-talk. You have to change the thoughts that trigger negative emotions. If you don’t change your thoughts, you can’t change a negative body image. Replace them with positive thoughts about your body.
8. Work on acceptance of your body as it is. As long as you actively reject your body as it is, you will feel bad about it. Identify the things you don’t like and embrace them as uniquely you. Work on being OKAY with your body.
9. Set reasonable goals for YOU. After you do all of the other things, you can then set goals that are reasonable for you. Change what you can about your body and think positively about the things you cannot change.
Karla Downing, MFT – www.changemyrelationship.com
First impressions are lasting impressions. Sure, it’s not always fair, but it’s the reality we all live with. When you are dating, you are marketing or “selling” yourself as a great person to spend time with. There are always things you can do to spruce up your packaging. It may take some preparation and work, but what in life, that’s really worthwhile, doesn’t?
Grooming issues top the list of dating turnoffs for both men and women. Look in the mirror before going out in public. Make yourself as attractive as possible. Then smile and get out there with confidence. Here are some suggestions for preparing yourself to look and feel your very best. Be aware that this will involve more than just makeup, hair, clothing, grooming and body image. However, it’s always smart to start on those areas that you can do something about. When you feel in control over your life, you give off the energy of someone who knows who they are. And that is very attractive to others.
1. Exercise, Tone and Energize
Exercise has been proven to add years to your life and life to your years. Why fight it. Find an activity you enjoy, and a friend or neighbor to share the experience with you, and make a commitment to exercising several times a week.
The key to success is no excuses. Create a routine that becomes an integral part of your life – and stick with it. If you need the discipline of a trainer, get one and cut out other expenses in your life. If you need to lose weight, determine that this is a lifestyle change you are ready to make and again, commit to it. The real battle is all internal.
Think about how wonderful you are going to look and feel as the weeks and months pass. This is a new you being created, by you, for you! Don’t sabotage yourself.
In the meantime, dress to compliment your body. Watch your posture. Get a flattering hairstyle and hold yourself with the air of confidence that says, “I’m worthy of your attention.” When you believe it, others will believe it too!
2. Love Who You See in the Mirror
It’s been mentioned before, but if you don’t like who and what you see in the mirror, it will be difficult to convey your value to your dating partners. Look around you. Women in relationships are not all tall, slender beauties. Men in relationships are not all tall, dark, and handsome. Yet, they all have found someone to care for and who cares for them. What you are aiming for is an attraction factor that has more to do with the kind of energy you emit than the body type you have.
It’s all about feeling and acting confident because you sincerely like yourself. If you are having problems feeling good about yourself as a prospective relationship partner, don’t bother moving ahead with dating just yet. Instead take the time to find a counselor you can talk to. Join a support group. Do the inner work to grow your self-esteem; then test the waters on a few dates. You’ll be amazed at the difference in your results.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Both men and women suffer from body dissatisfaction, especially in Western culture. Here are some tips to improve body image:
1. Notice what is RIGHT
The NEGATIVITY BIAS many of us have means that when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we see flaws. Instead of focusing on perceived flaws, notice features that you like. For example, notice those beautiful eyes! Your sexy feet! Or your hair, that calls out for your date’s hand to run through!
2. Experience the body as an INSTRUMENT rather than an ORNAMENT
We all have a body. We all have a choice about the kind of relationship we have with our body. If we experience our body as an instrument of pleasure, the focus is on all the body can do for us and provide us. It is through our body that we experience sensory pleasures, like the warmth of the sun on our skin. If we experience our body as an ornament, we are inclined to focus on what we think our body looks like (which is often a distorted perception), and how to make it look ‘better’. Wanting to improve our looks is natural and benign, unless it is a preoccupation, which at times is the case with negative body image. Instead of harping on the cellulite on your legs, for example, thank your legs for their strength and ability to walk.
3. Emphasize INSIDE- OUT instead of OUTSIDE- IN
When we focus on what we look like, we are focused on our outer self, our appearance, and how closely we approximate some sort of ideal standard of attractiveness. This means we let our self esteem be determined by someone else. When we have an inside- out approach, our first and foremost emphasis is on how we feel. In this way we are validating our worth based on just being who we are, rather than having it contingent on others’ standards. Who would you rather allow determine your self esteem? You or whomever happens to be looking at you?
Feeling comfortable and ‘at home’ in your body is your birthright. It is worth the effort! Try it and discover for yourself the benefits of better body image.
Dr. Elayne Daniels – www.drelaynedaniels.com
This is a topic most of us are familiar with; there are not many people who have not had to deal with this at one time or another. The quick answer is that negative body image is really about stuffed anger and judgment.
There are two ways we can view the world. One is to assess and another to judge both others and ourselves. One of my mentors explained the difference between the two this way. Assessing is simply taking in the world as information. For example, as I am putting on my jeans I notice they are getting harder to zip. I can say to myself “I must be putting on a few pounds, I better watch what I eat the next few weeks”; that’s assessing. However, judgment is anger based. Same example but instead I say to myself, “Look at this, I am getting fat again”, “why can’t I get this right?” “I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that piece of cake”, “I messed all this up by not going to the gym last week”, etc.…
Judgment of self and others is merely an extension of existing hurt and anger that resides inside us. By working on releasing the old anger and breaking the habit of seeing the world through judging eyes, it allows us to assess rather than judge what we see. It also releases heavy burdens that we carry in terms of what judging what we should or shouldn’t do or be.
Letting go of old trapped emotion is not a decision as much as it is being willing to feel the feeling. Yes, we make the decision to let things go but the act of doing it is by feeling the stuffed old feelings in a healthy safe environment. Literally, let them go.
Also, become aware of your thoughts and change them. When a judging thought comes through say “no, no, I am not doing that anymore” and replace it with a kinder, gentler thought. With diligent practice at changing thoughts it won’t be long before the new habit takes hold.
With releasing your anger and changing the negative thoughts it will become much easier to see yourself and the world in a more loving light.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
I was fortunate to grow up with a mother who never talked about weight gain or loss. Perhaps she thought about it, but her daughters didn’t know. I watched her eat what she wanted and enjoy life. That did not, however, completely insulate me from not always being able to celebrate my body. Along my life journey, this is what I have learned to counter the media hype and the poison of “perhaps I am less than.”
My body is always in flux: pregnancy, age, lack of exercise, what I eat or don’t, regular exercise, time of the month (though not an issue for me now) all impact my body to a certain degree. I am comfortable with the fact that my body will change and know that I have a far amount of control over those changes.
The most intensely personal relationship I’ll ever have is with my body. Let’s face it, we are together 24/7. And I need to invest in my body and take care of it just as I would any loving relationship. Listen to your body, and you will know what you need to do to take good care of it.
Turn away from how your body looks to how it serves you. Without my legs, I couldn’t dance. Without my arms, I couldn’t hug. Without my eyes, I couldn’t see the beauty in the world. Without my ears, I couldn’t hear the funny things my grandkids say.
I think you get the idea. Make a list of all the things you celebrate about your body and hang it on the fridge or somewhere you will see it every day.
And start your day with thoughts of gratefulness about the body you have. That will become your mind’s focus and set you on the right course of loving your body.
Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majokpersonalcoach.com
As someone who struggled with body image and suffered from eating disorders for over ten years, I know first hand how complex and challenging it is to accept yourself as you are.
I constantly tried to mold myself to reflect who was in front of me at the time.
Now that I am a mother of two young children, I see it as my responsibility to model self-acceptance, respect, and compassion for myself.
My body has been 85 pounds when I was an anorexic adolescent and 195 pounds during pregnancy. Surprisingly enough, I loved my pregnant self at 195 pounds and was miserably unhappy at 85 pounds as a teenager.
Now, I view my body as a vessel to experience life with.
I watched my father-in-law’s body deteriorate, as he grew sick during his dying days.
I have seen my newborn baby struggle to breath, diagnosed with a respiratory virus, landing him in the hospital.
I have seen my father overcome stage four cancer.
Our bodies are sacred. They are given to us to appreciate and celebrate life with.
Embrace your body, as it is, imperfections and all. Our imperfections carry stories of survival and resiliency.
Be thankful for your body.
Thank your body for granting you the ability to live life fully.
Thank the various beautiful parts of your body and be grateful for the functions of your body parts.
Life is too precious to waste on not loving yourself.
Make loving yourself a priority.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” – Marianne Williamson
Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com
There is nothing like looking at yourself butt naked in front of a full length mirror. You start picking things apart immediately. Your legs are lumpy. You’re saggy in strange places. Hair has left some places and relocated in other places. It’s like the scene in Mean Girls when the 4 main characters are sitting in front of the mirror scrutinizing every little thing about themselves, “God. My hips are huge! Oh please. I hate my calves. At least you guys can wear halters. I’ve got man shoulders. My hairline is so weird. My pores are huge. My nail beds suck.” And if we’re honest, we scrutinize ourselves in similar ways. In a culture saturated with images telling us how we are supposed to look, no wonder we suffer from negative body images—men and women both.
While there is no magic potion for a flawless figure, there are things we can do to help improve the way we see ourselves.
1. What are your triggers?
Is it looking in mirrors? Wearing clothes that grab you in your soft spots? Eating in front of people? Looking at the magazine covers in line at the grocery? Whatever it might be, figure it out, and do your best not to engage in the activities that make you feel worse about your body image.
2. Do something!
Get up an exercise. A better body isn’t going to come from sitting around and playing on Facebook or playing on your Xbox. It doesn’t matter how fast you run or how much you can lift, all that matters is that you are moving.
3. Pay attention to what you eat.
Cheeseburgers do taste really good, especially when paired with some greasy fries, but usually after I eat that I need to go home and put sweatpants on, and I’m also pretty sure I can see where it all ends up. It’s okay to eat like that sometimes, but it doesn’t do your body good to make that a regular habit.
These are pretty simple things anyone can do to help improve their body image, but if you find that the problem may be more than these suggestions, you may want to look into getting individual help.
Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC – www.simplifiedatlanta.com
It seems like almost everyone struggles with body issues one way or another. With the media constantly planting ideas in our heads about how we should look through billboards, television commercials, magazines, etc. It has become the standard that we all long to achieve.
Sadly, most of those images are of models that have been worked over by a make up artist, wardrobe stylist, and photo shop expert.
So what we are seeing is a fantasy!
But on the other hand, we are bombarded daily by advertisements for junk food, soft drinks, and prescription medication, keeping us fat and sick. I have found that the only way to have a healthy body image is to have a healthy self- image and high self- esteem. When you truly know your greatness, your power and your worth, you will want to take optimum care of your body.
Some ways to achieve this are: having a daily spiritual practice; i.e. practicing mediation, prayer, affirmations, doing yoga or tai chi, reading positive literature, and attending self growth lectures and seminars.
When you like who you are, you will make better food choices, and you will want to exercise. You will feel good in your own skin and not care about what anyone else thinks about you. You won’t feel the need to compare yourself to someone else’s idea of what looks right, but you will bask in the appreciation of that which is magnificent you!
Marla Martenson, Matchmaker – www.marlamartenson.com
When I work with female clients, negative body image has become a common topic of concern. I think it’s important to address how negative body image affects men as well, because it is something that has come to be known as more of a “female issue.” However, the reality is poor self-esteem and negative body image don’t discriminate. Here are a few of the ways I work with clients in my own practice to begin challenging their negative beliefs about the way they see themselves.
1. Find one thing about your body you appreciate and, possibly, cherish.
As human beings we are wired to focus on the negative and let go of the good. If we are to begin changing the way we think about ourselves, we must begin to work against what we are naturally programmed to do. In the case of body image, this means finding at least one aspect you do appreciate about this body you’ve been given. Is it your eyes because you like their color? Is it your hands because of what they allow you to do? Is it your arms because you feel they are strong? You get the idea. Find that one thing and build on it. Visualize appreciating that feature about yourself.
2. Comparison is the thief of joy.
I’m sure you have heard this saying, and I believe it is 110% true: if you are struggling with negative body image, then you are probably judging yourself. This also means you are comparing yourself to some “other” standard, one which may not be attainable or realistic. There is a fine line between looking up to someone as a role model and using that same person as a way to beat yourself down. The reality is, you don’t know that persons own journey. You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
3. It’s not about “fake it till you make it.”
Personally, I am not a huge fan of this saying. I think it can be helpful for some and hurtful for others. What I do advocate is the following: think about the people you admire and what qualities you think they possess that you want to have. The next step is to start doing some of those same things. For example, most people would agree that confident people “walk tall.” Any health/physical barriers aside, most people can start correcting their posture to where they walk with shoulders back, head up, and eyes forward. If you are someone who is afraid of making eye contact with people, then here is my kernel of advice for you: look at their forehead, their eyes, their lips, and/or their chin. Most people will never notice the difference and you will instantly exude more self-confidence, which in turn helps with negative body image.
Laura Pryor, LIMHP, LPC, PLADC – www.laurapryortherapy.com
It’s amazing when anyone, especially female, actually likes her body. The pressure to be extremely thin has been on us for at least 50 years. Despite outcries for change, the situation continues. Look at the media coverage of pregnant women, which I believe is disgusting, as an example.
It takes a good deal of self-confidence to be able to say “I think I look good and I don’t care what anyone else’s opinion is”. You might take a look at your critics – as a rule they are not prime specimens themselves.
Men and women, very often, have different opinions as to what is attractive. I have noticed that the women whose bodies other women covet are frequently considered to be way too skinny by a lot of men. Hugging a bag of bones is not exactly most men’s idea of heaven.
But, let’s get beyond this. Your body is your home. It protects you, moves for you, allows you to express your individuality. Try to treat it with respect, and, in fact, to honor it. People will enter and leave your life, but your body is always with you. Even if it fails because of illness or accident, it’s resilient and constant. Do not take it for granted.
Do you need to hear that there are many different standards of beauty? Who has the right to say that one type is superior to another? If we had an instrument that could measure “beauty” per se perhaps we could include skin texture and bone strength along with length of leg and flatness of abdomen. We, obviously, do not have that type of measure. At the end of the day, no one genuinely loves you because of the size of your breasts, have you ever thought about that?
Take care of yourself. Be healthy. Be proud. Your personal grooming says a lot about how you feel about yourself to the world. Honor your brain, your heart, your soul. Your body while important, is not the whole story about you. Value your complexity, hold your head high, after all, you are the only one of “you” that there is.
Ruth Gordon, M.A., MSW, LICSW – www.foreverfabulousyou.com
This important topic is difficult to fully analyze in just a few paragraphs.
In a society that “sells” or otherwise emphasizes physical beauty and “tight bodies,” “six pack abs” and sizes 0-4 (and I might be pushing it with a size 4)—as well as diet fads everywhere you look—“overcoming” a negative body image can be a daunting goal. However, there is one thing that I think is the most important thing to do in order to work toward celebrating how we see our physical body: we should stop equating our self- worth with how we look.
We are not defined by the size of our pants, bra size, height, hair color or eye color.
If you believe that you are, then learning to love your body will be difficult. So, ask yourself: “What kind of person do I want to be?” “What value system do I want to live by?” or “How do I want people to feel when they are around me?” I think that if you consider yourself a caring and compassionate person, you are caring and compassionate whether you are a size 4 or a size 14. As long as you are living authentically, your self-worth doesn’t change with your weight.
I think it is okay to want to make some different decisions about how you take care of yourself physically. Making healthy decisions is important. Just remember that you can define for yourself what it means to be physically beautiful. Learn about other cultures who have different perspectives than the western world or the US. Look at why they believe this and use this to understand that there is no absolute truth.
Jacqueline V. Cohen, LPC – www.therapymama.com
Do you feel like your value as person rests on losing that last (insert number here) pounds, despite other people saying you are not overweight?
If so, you may be suffering from negative body image.
It’s hard to get away from this in our society. So many of us are born and bred on the thin ideal, surrounded by dieters, it almost seems like body dysphoria is the norm. But negative body image involves deeper processes than appear at first glance, and you can’t “just get over it”.
Having suffered from an eating disorder for much of my younger years, and now being an eating disorder specialist, I know this issue is not nearly as simple as people often think. If you can’t overcome negative body image on your own, don’t blame or label yourself negatively. Instead, let me offer some suggestions that you probably never thought were tied to body image.
In my experience, the ‘feeling fat’ phenomenon appears closely tied to reactions that happen in the insula– a part of your brain that houses your sense of body size and your sense of error detection. I believe some of us become so rigid in our internalized social obligations, roles, accomplishments, and commitment to fixing other people’s problems, that we literally cause the insula to hyper-fire.
This increased insular activity affects your proprioceptive sense, which makes your body feel bigger than it really is. Every time you tell yourself you should have done more, should have done better, didn’t do something right, etc., you may be creating a physiological reaction in your insula that distorts how you sense your body. In order to restore healthy body image, you will have to identify and change some social and psychological patterns in your life.
Start to rethink what you take on, make more realistic achievement and social goals, develop healthier social expectations and be less rigid with yourself in multiple areas.
The next time you notice yourself ‘feeling fat’ out of the blue, ask yourself, “have I been feeling like failure, have I been unfair in my expectations of myself, am I taking on too much responsibility for social issues that are not mine to own?” Feeling more positive about your exterior involves feeling more positive in your mind and social world.
Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC – www.thedragonflyretreat.com
Have you ever had the thought that somewhere along the conveyor belt of creation, some factory worker, clearly snoozing on the job, dropped your mind and spirit into the wrong shell? That everything about your body seems just…wrong? That you got a bum deal, and were given a faulty vehicle? If you have had this thought, even if it is fleeting, you definitely have company.
I don’t have a solution, but I do know a salve. Go to the Museum of Natural History. Then visit the botanical gardens or the aquarium. Read all the plaques and really take it all in. Look at everything that is there. The birds that have beards, the toads that shoot blood from their eyes, the fish without eyes, the plants that eat meat… This planet is crawling with oddballs. What’s nice about all of these places is that we can learn about each breed. Why does that plant eat meat? Why don’t those fish have eyes? In every case there is a reason, unique and specific to the causes and conditions of that species. Being mammals ourselves, we are no different. We are all products of the same quirky, brilliant design, and each embody an original alchemy which is distinctly our own.
What gets confusing, but really needn’t be, is that as humans, we can change our bodies if we want to. We can exercise more, alter our diet, get hair plugs, undergo gender reassignment, get plastic surgery, have our breasts augmented or reduced, go to the tanning salon, wear a binder or a girdle… whatever we experience as a problem, we can try to fix. So, is trying to adjust our physicality somehow going against our natural design? I’d say not. This ability to alter ourselves, through consciousness and resource is also part of our individual and collective human nature. If your spirit wants lavender hair, you can have it. What a joy! Our bodies are exactly the ones that we were born to have, AND…we can change them. You are your very own experiment.
The only cautionary peep that I’ll submit, but it is an extremely important one, is that impact is where we direct our aim. Example: if you want to reduce the size of your nose, a nose job will accomplish that. If you want to feel beautiful, a nose job will likely not accomplish that. Feeling beautiful comes from another place. Locate the root of that problem- find out what “feeling beautiful” really is and where it comes from, and point your healing lasers there.
Though undoubtedly painful, these “problems” are tools for expansion of the soul. Our perceived flaws are what connect us to each other and help us find our community. Think about what you loved most from your visit to the botanical gardens, the natural history museum or the aquarium. I’d bet that it was a pretty unique being. Just like you. Now imagine what your own plaque might say. What shining evolutionary path brought you here, and what purpose might your “imperfections” serve?
Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFTi – www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
Body image issues run rampant in our society. Some research shows that virtually all women and over half of men wish they could change something about their body. However, body image issues are more of a reflection of how a person feels about themselves on the inside than what their reflection in the mirror actually shows. To overcome body image concerns, the most important step is to take a look at yourself from the “inside out”.
It sounds cliché, but self-love is the key to shifting from a negative body-image to a more accepting view of who you are. Take note of the negative self-talk, the tendency to overlook positive traits, and the cycle of harmful or unhealthy behavior that results from your negative body image. These harsh thoughts and feelings serve only to reinforce a negative body image and won’t send you on the path to healing them. At the very least, shifting negative to neutral thoughts will help you to reality-check yourself and open the door to a more positive view of yourself—both on the inside and out.
When talking with clients, I urge them to consider living through their integrity vs. their self-esteem. Integrity is living from the inside out—dismissing what society says and living in a way that best fits your life, your interests, and your overall circumstances. Self-esteem, on the other hand, creates constant turmoil as we live from the “outside-in”. In other words, we constantly compare ourselves to the world around us. The problem with comparing ourselves to others is that what we see in magazines, on billboards, and on T.V. are not realistic—or even real—representations of how others really are.
Finally, I encourage people to embrace their uniqueness. In our society we have a tendency to want to follow the norm, to fit in, and to look like everyone else. Instead, consider how freeing it would be if you just lived the way you wanted—wore the clothes you wanted, acted like you wanted, and had more acceptance in being who you are. Life would be much, MUCH easier, and the battle of body image would be no more.
Dr. Katherine Kelly – www.drkatherinetkelly.com
The term “body image” is referred to as how we see ourselves. Most of us will view some things about ourselves positively, and some things are viewed negatively. All of us have at least one thing we would like to change about ourselves, and have an idea on what we would ideally like to look like. However, having a negative body image can become a big problem when it interferes with your life.
For example, if you find yourself missing out on events or social situations because of the way you look, or if you are constantly obsessing about your looks and the things you want to change about yourself.
There certainly needs to be a balance.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome a negative body image!
• Focus on the positive. What do you love about yourself? Think about what you already love and accentuate those areas. Try to not focus so much on what you don’t like.
• Put things in perspective. Consider focusing your attention on other things that you are good at, or that you do like. Such as, a new hobby, sports and other physical interests.
• Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember that everyone is fighting their own battle. Chances are good that other people don’t even notice the things about yourself that you don’t like.
Know that nobody is perfect. Find a way to accept and appreciate your unique qualities, and yourself, and accept you for you!
Brooke Schmidt, M.A., LAMFT – www.brookeschmidt.com
Loving yourself and what you see in the mirror is based on how you think about what you see in that mirror. Our thoughts are often the result of innocent comments from family, friends, doctors, and coaches that create feelings that somehow our bodies are not as good as it should be. Influences from society and the media to look a certain way permeates everything from the doll to the beauty industry. It is also true that some people misinterpret the message to “get healthy” with “get skinny”.
I fully endorse anyone making changes to their lives to embrace a healthier lifestyle for sustained overall health and wellness or making changes to their appearance to enhance their looks. However, I do encourage people to consider their motives and expectations for the changes.
The WomensHealth.gov (2009) website lists the following long-term impact of having a negative body image:
• developing anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, shame, and trouble concentrating;
• taking risks with your sexual health;
• cutting yourself off from being with other people socially;
• no longer engaging in healthy activities that require you to show your bodies, such as exercising, having sex, going to the doctor, or swimming;
• suffering from serious mental health problems, such as anorexia, bulimia, over-exercising, or overeating. These disorders can be very serious.
A positive image can be developed, but the most important requirement is gaining love and acceptance of yourself.
1. Change your relationship with mirrors. Instead of loathing what you see when you look in a mirror, try expressing self-love and appreciation. Ms. Louise Hay, an author and founder of Hay House, often encourages people to do mirror work to improve self-love. As one looks in the mirror, she encourages them to recite positive affirmations about loving their imperfections and loving themselves.
2. Make a list of your positive attributes and the many ways you contribute to the world (which has little to do with your appearance). Consider setting personal goals for things you would still like to accomplish and for dreams you have yet to achieve. Success breeds success. People have greater confidence and are happier when they are accomplishing their goals and following their dreams.
3. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and make you feel good about yourself.
4. Recognize that there are many body types (from petite to large frames), so refrain from comparing yourself to others.
Dr. Imani Price – www.womensinnerfitness4health.com
It’s not about how you look.
Chances are, if you stand in front of a mirror with self-criticism and loathing, those internal messages have nothing to do with your reflection, but everything to do with your overall self-image.
As much as we would like to believe our thoughts have some authority and relevancy, in truth, our thoughts, especially our thoughts about ourselves, have external roots. From the moment we are born, we begin receiving external messages: from family, friends, society, advertising, community. We each receive a unique set of messages and have our own unique way of weaving them into our self-perception. And those thoughts have power over us.
Therefore, even if your body is not what you consider to be perfect, your negative body image is a distortion.
Here are a few steps to challenging the distortion:
1. Notice your negative self-thoughts about your body. Just notice them without judgment. Notice when they occur, what triggers them, and how often.
2. Look for the positive. Spend at least as much time actively looking for things about your body and your self to be proud of. If you find yourself struggling with identifying positive aspects, at the very least, focus on those things that are neutral. For example, “I have nice teeth.” Get creative!
3. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Stop dieting. The mere word “diet” indicates an expectation of self-deprivation and triggers a negative cycle. We set unrealistic goals. Then we fail. And that leads to a generalized, “I am a failure.”
4. There is no right or wrong. Eat anything you want whenever you want. Work out, or don’t work out. Stop applying inflexible, steadfast rules. Acknowledge that each choice is a conscious choice and you are not required to make perfect choices all the time. Each moment is an opportunity for a new conscious choice.
5. Ask for help. Sometimes our negative messages are too deep and too embedded to overcome on our own. Don’t hesitate to find a professional to help you challenge your negative body image in a safe and very empathic way.
Bobbi Jankovich, LMFT – www.bobbijankovich.com